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Fred Dryer Vs. The NFL: The Next Chapter

The National Football League has faced mixed reviews when the settlement ruling came down in August for the League to pay over 18,000 former players 765 million dollars.

What’s that old saying? When one door closes, another one opens?

The NFL could be back in the courts again, depending on how former players decide to vote on their latest appeal.

Fred Dryer and over 20,000 former NFL players are fighting for the right to be compensated after years of their names, images and likeness being used by NFL Films to help build the NFL’s brand. There is no data stating how much exactly NFL Films is worth, but since its merger with NFL Network in 2003, the network’s reach went from 12 million to 72 million households in 2013.

Started in 1993, players began to have clauses placed in their contracts stating that their names, images and likeness would be available to publicize and promote the league. In 2011, the players took it a step further during their collective bargaining agreement, giving themselves the ownership of their exclusive rights.

In a proposed settlement that was brought to the attention of the players in the spring of 2013, the NFL offered to put $50 million, minus an estimated $8 million in legal fees, into a fund to benefit retired NFL players.

Many former athletes have spoken in favor of this settlement, including Cleveland Browns legend, Jim Brown, who leads a board of retired veterans.

If the players don’t accept the deal that is in place, then they can only seek damages on images dating back to 2003, something Judge Paul Magnuson of the United States District Court in Minnesota made abundantly clear when approving the settlement in April.

In August, a similar suit was filed in New Jersey with Curley Culp as the lead plaintiff, along with Mike Bass, Willie Buchanon, Roman Gabriel, Joe Kapp and Phil Villapiano. The players voluntarily dismissed their claims though after Judge Magnuson stated that the lawsuit violated the “the letter and the spirit” of the Dryer vs. NFL case that is still pending.

Dryer isn’t a trailblazer when it comes to these types of lawsuits.

Al Gionfriddo, a former Brooklyn Dodger, including several other former players, sued Major League Baseball over a decade ago for appearing in archival footage. The players suit was unsuccessful.

Ed O’ Bannon, a former basketball player for UCLA, is a part of one of the biggest lawsuits fighting for the right to make money off their likeness. Filed back in 2009, O’Bannon believes that his features, along with other former college athletes, were used in the NCAA’s EA Sports video game series. While the case is still ongoing, the ruling could shake the very core of college athletics and how athletes are compensated while attending school.

The players in the Dryer case are now at a crossroads – they have a deal in place, but is it the deal they should make? Fred Dryer opposes the settlement, and had urged players to opt out prior to the August 30th deadline, stating that it’s unfair. The Court holds a hearing on October 17, 2013 to consider granting final approval to the proposed settlement.

SOURCE: Forbes