The Honorable William Alsup denied the NFLPA’s post-trial motions to attempt to overturn the $28.1 million award returned unanimously by a ten person jury. The post-trial motions relate to the verdict from the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 2,000 retired NFL players alleging that the NFLPA failed to properly market their likenesses.
In their post-trial motions the NFLPA argued that the award of $21 million in punitive damages was too high, but the Court stated that the instructions to the jury regarding punitive damages were exactly as requested by the defense.
The case may be summarized best by the following two paragraphs from the judge’s order:
“A monumental fact was never adequately explained by defendants — how could it have been that defendants lobbied thousands of retired players for fourteen years to sign up for defendants’ RPGLA(Retired Players Group Licensing Agreement) “program,” yet never paid one cent to any retired player under the program? Put differently, if retired players’ images and identities were really the undesirable “dog food” contended by the defense, then why did they try so hard to sign up the RPGLA class members for so long — only to never pay a penny?”
“The jury could reasonably have accepted the view of the evidence that defendants undertook a fiduciary duty to promote and to market all retired players who had signed RPGLAs — yet made no effort to do so — and that defendants’ true commercial motive was to create an illusion of representation so that no one else would seek to sign up the RPGLA class and to market them. While defendants offered vague verbal testimony of passing attempts to market the RPGLA group as a whole, the jury could have easily rejected those snippets as self-serving “double talk.” Not a single offer to market the entire group was ever in writing; nor was there ever any documentary corroboration of any such verbal group offer. To the contrary, the only writings showed the opposite of marketing — for example, that defendants told Electronic Arts to “scramble” the identities of retired players in the lucrative Madden vintage-team game. This game would have been a golden opportunity for defendants to have offered to license the entire group of RPGLA members but, significantly, no such offer was made — or so the jury could reasonably have found. Instead, defendants told EA to “scramble” the names and identities of retired players and the class received zero from this potential bonanza. What is more, the Hall of Fame evidence showed that defendants were willing to “sell out” the RPGLA class members in order to curry favor with EA (by keeping a competitor of EA out of the market) — or so the jury could have reasonably concluded. And, the “escrow account” referenced in the RPGLA (supposedly to be set up to hold revenues for class members) was never even established by defendants, from which it could reasonably have been inferred that the escrow account was never intended to be anything more than an illusion.”
The NFLPA has stated that they will file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jeffrey Kessler of Dewey & LeBoeuf, the outside legal firm representing the NFLPA in the case, stated earlier: “This verdict is a complete miscarriage of justice. It will not stand on appeal. The union did nothing but try to help the retired players and there was no basis in the evidence for this jury to reach the verdict that they rendered.”
A copy of the entire order may be viewed by clicking HERE.