Retired Players Win Lawsuit Over Cards, Games

A federal jury ordered the NFL Players Association to fork over $28.1 million for refusing to cut retired players in on their marketing deals.

It’s been years–decades for some–since they last donned a helmet, but some former NFL players won a huge victory on Monday.

A federal jury in San Francisco found in favor of a lawsuit filed on behalf of over 2,000 retired players who felt the union owed them for using their images on football cards, video games and other products. The jury said the union owed the ex-players $7.1 million in actual damages. The remainder of the $28.1 million verdict was for punitive damages.

Herb Adderley Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderly, a member of Vince Lombardi’s championship teams in Green Bay during the 1960s and Tom Landry’s early 70s Cowboys, filed the suit on behalf of his colleagues. The 69 year-old cried when the verdict was read.

"I won three Super Bowls and this feels better han all of them combined," Adderly told reporters after the verdict. "I always felt I had one big play left." Adderly came to the trial wearing his yellow Hall of Fame sportcoat each day.

A number of retired players testified during the three-week trial or showed up to lend support including former Packers’ quarterback Bart Starr.

While trading cards were part of the suit, the former players were also upset about the use of their likenesses in EA Sports Madden NFL video games. The union believed that EA, sports card companies Topps, Upper Deck and Donruss as well as other companies paid licensing fees only for the use of active players’ names and likenesses. The retirees believed they had signed group licensing agreements that promised the union would do its best to market them. The jury agreed the union hadn’t done enough.

"It’s an unjust verdict and we are confident it will be overturned," said union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.

The laywers and judge are now left to decide how to divide the award, some of which will go to attorneys’ fees.

Shop for football cards by year