Retired players sue NFLPA, De Smith, Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady

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Before and during the lockout, the NFL and the NFLPA tried to get the retired players on their side, assuming that, if they could win the affections of the former players, they could leverage that into the sympathy of the average fan.  In the end, the retired players took no sides.

One group of them, led by Hall of Famer Carl Eller, eventually sued both sides.

Faced with the reality that the NFL owes retired players nothing beyond that which they negotiated for themselves during their playing careers, the Eller lawsuit eventually was dismissed.  But Eller and company aren’t going away.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports reports that Eller and a slew of retired players have filed a new class action.  The rest of the named plaintiffs include Chuck Bednarik, Paul Krause, Lem Barney, Joe DeLamiellure, Willie Wood, Bob Lilly, Elvin Bethea, John Hannah, Ron Yary, Leroy Kelly, Jackie Smith, Charley Taylor, Bob St. Clair, Gino Marchetti, Mel Renfro, Dan Hamptom, Don Maynward, Tommy McDonald, Larry Little, Rayfield Wright, and Kyle Turley.

The new suit doesn’t target the league.  The plaintiffs have sued the NFLPA, its executive director DeMaurice Smith, and only two of the 10 named plaintiffs in the antitrust case filed in March against the NFL:  retired linebacker Mike Vrabel and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The 51-page lawsuit, a link to which Wetzel provides, seeks a declaration that the NFLPA had no right to negotiate on behalf of the retired players during the time that it wasn’t a union, along with a claim that the NFLPA intentionally interfered with the retired players’ rights against the NFL and an assertion that the NFLPA had a “fiduciary duty” to the retired players, which the NFLPA allegedly violated by negotiating a new CBA that advanced the rights of current players at the expense of retired players.

Eller and the rest of the named plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in the Minnesota federal court, the venue in which the NFLPA and its players have for decades sought refuge against the NFL.

The first question is whether the NFLPA will add the NFL as what the legal system calls a third-party defendant, or possibly attack the lawsuit based on the failure of the Eller plaintiffs to join the NFL as a primary defendant.  Although the retired players most likely have no legal right to any benefits from the league that the league didn’t promise during their playing careers, the allegation that the NFLPA assumed a fiduciary duty could spell trouble for the union, if Eller and company can prove that the NFLPA put the interests of current players above the interests of retired players.

Since, as Wetzel points out, the case won’t affect the 10 years of labor peace to which the league and the NFLPA agreed in July, most fans won’t care about this one.  Given that some of the games all-time greats are suing only four defendants and that one of them is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, it makes sense to at least keep an eye on this one.

49 responses to “Retired players sue NFLPA, De Smith, Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady

  1. This one is easy to defend. Just go back to the contracts they signed and the union contract in place at the time. Why do these guys keep thinking they are entitled to any additional benefits?

    Sorry to see Joe D. involved.

  2. Smooth move Mike, if you would have put this sentence at the top:
    “Since, as Wetzel points out, the case won’t affect the 10 years of labor peace to which the league and the NFLPA agreed in July, most fans won’t care about this one.”

    I wouldn’t have finished the article…..

  3. Retired players are represented by several different parties and there’s squabbling between them, which ios a damn shame. One is the NFL Alumni Association headed by George Martin, who was also unable to get any information at all from DeMaurice Smith.

  4. So, Eller and Co. are now trying to sue the current players for not sacrificing their own interests in the name of former players who, when it was their turn at the negotiating table, negotiated in their own short-term benefit? Look, I think the former players need to be taken care of a bit better. The helped build the fiscal empire we know as the NFL, and they played before players were making anywhere near what current players are making and before we fully understood the impact on their health. Having said that, I really don’t see that they have a legal leg to stand on. The retired players had no real say in the negotiations, meaning they had no real power to get what they want. The current players managed to get them something extra while negotiating their own deal. That doesn’t mean that they had a fiduciary duty to the retired players. It means that they got the owners to throw a little extra into the pot. If the retired players think they have grounds and leverage to negotiate their benefits with the league, they can do so now…independent of the current players. What’s next? Are the vendors going to sue because they weren’t consulted or taken care of too?

  5. sorry , maybe I’m getting old but did somebody really post that they did not know one name. I think there is at least 10 HOF players on that list. they built this league up to what it is now back in the late 60’s and 70’s. that list is just plain full of legends. hate to hear they got the short end of the deal. they did not throw many flags back in there day.

  6. oldhamletman says: Sep 13, 2011 9:05 PM

    interesting how the shammers are getting their due…. having to defend against baseless BS
    _________________________
    Grow up and get a clue. There were no “shammers” in the negotiations. There were no good guys or bad guys. There was simply two sides that need each other doing their best to get the most profitable deal possible for their own group. It’s called business. It happens pretty much every day in every industry. The only difference here is that it involved football, which means that every little detail or disagreement became public and was surrounded by a media campaign.

  7. Seriously Kyle Turley? He’s been retired for about 10 minutes. He benefits from the old CBA and the new one. He has nothing to complain about.

    Gino Marchetti being of the era before the Union existed might have grounds to complain.

  8. I’m a bit confused how the former players are saying the NFLPA had to right to negotiate for them when they weren’t a union, but that they violated the “fiduciary duty” when they negotiated a deal that bettered current players over retired players.

    If the NFLPA had no right to negotiate when it wasn’t a union, then I fail to see how it carried a fiduciary duty when it wasn’t a union either. Therefore, the NFLPA couldn’t have violated any said duty when it negotiated the deals. Any loss for retired players was merely a case of them lacking representation — which is a different matter entirely.

    Like people will say: retired players need to have their dues, but they had chances, too. This lawsuit seems like a cheap shot since they were already shot down when trying to sue the NFL.

  9. OMG PLEASE don’t start with this BS again! Save it for the offseason and let us all enjoy the game we love; At least for now!

  10. Next up, college draft eligible players should sue the self-serving NFLPA and it’s stupid, spineless, little figurehead. Their rights were sold as much as the retirees.

  11. I’m a fan and I care.

    Under the new CBA, current NFL players willingly sacrificed nearly a BILLION dollars in favor of the retired players.

    The retired players have accomplished the impossible. After years of apparent mistreatment, they now look like greedly ingrates.

  12. There are 32 HOFers and Turley (there were a couple other non-HOFer on the suit as well):

    Carl Eller — 6-time Pro Bowler & 5-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2004
    Chuck Bednarik — 8-time Pro Bowler & 5-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1967
    Paul Krause — 8-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1998
    Lem Barney — 7-time Pro Bowler & 2-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1992
    Joe DeLamiellure [DeLamielleure] — 6-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003
    Willie Wood — 8-time Pro Bowler & 5-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1989
    Bob Lilly — 11-time Pro Bowler & 7-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1980
    Elvin Bethea — 8-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003
    John Hannah — 9-time Pro Bowler & 7-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1991
    Ron Yary — 7-time Pro Bowler & 6-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2001
    Leroy Kelly — 6-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1994
    Jackie Smith — 5-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1994
    Charley Taylor — 8-time Pro Bowler & 1-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1984
    Bob St. Clair — 5-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1990
    Gino Marchetti — 11-time Pro Bowler & 7-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1972
    Mel Renfro — 10-time Pro Bowler & 1-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1996
    Dan Hamptom [Hampton] — 4-time Pro Bowler & 1-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2002
    Don Maynward [Maynard] — 4-time Pro Bowler & 1-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1987
    Tommy McDonald — 6-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1998
    Larry Little — 5-time Pro Bowler & 5-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1993
    Rayfield Wright — 6-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2006
    Kyle Turley — 1-time First-Team All-Pro; threw his helmet once.

  13. This is a useless and baseless lawsuit that should have been thrown out the second it was filed. As a retired employee you did not get to negotiate benefits after the fact. Do you think retired workers for the phone company can impose their will on labor negotiations with the current workers? No. The current workers make a lot more money in 2011 than they did in 1975.

    I am tired of these whining retired players complaining. Shut up and go away.

  14. The nflpa got the retired players MORE benefits than they had negotiated during their playing careers and they’re still not satisfied. The nflpa, nfl and the courts should take back all benefits gained during negotiations for retired players and then let them see what they get!!!

  15. NFLPA took all the seats in the lifeboat for themselves. Plus enough extra ones that they could all stretch out comfortably while they floated along. Then they threw the old and the young overboard to drown.

  16. “warrenmoon says:
    Sep 13, 2011 9:07 PM
    I didn’t know one name off that list… And the lockout is over, so I don’t care about this anymore”

    ===========

    So you’re one of those people who if a player hasn’t appeared on Madden, you’re basically in the dark?

  17. “tom brady deserves to be sued”

    ========

    I’d like him to get sued so those damn Uggs commercials aren’t on during every break.

  18. Go figure, hey why not, let’s go after the greatest QB in the league right now. The guy with the most important name recognition in the league Tom Brady.

  19. Gee, let’s say you hypothetically win the latest case. It has already been determined that you are owed nothing by the NFL, so the damages should be $0 since interfering with nothing is nothing.

    I have long wanted the old timers to be better taken care of, but they were never entitled to it, and need to realize that. Now, they will lose a lot of sympathy, and can suck it, in my opinion.

  20. Gotta love the flurry of lawsuits set off by greed! The lawyers can smell the blood in the water, and they will try to destroy anyone, anything and any institution that they can to collect their percentage plus expenses. Kinda makes you wonder that there may be a problem with the tort system in our country, no? The cost of crap like this in every facet of our existence is absolutely incalculable, and the mindset that endless lawsuits engenders erodes any responsibility that one should feel for their own actions.

    Many probably think this is some kind of search for the ultimate truth and justice. The fact is that the older guys were paid well for their service in the past, and that it was a different world then. No one then thought that they would have to earn every dollar they would ever have in their life in a few short years. Out of their own sense of generosity, the NFLPA and NFL should consider helping some of the players who were seriously injured in the game. However, many who are looking for a handout have had bad luck or have been unwise in their choices in life.

    This is a story about legal fees, not any kind of justice for anyone who was truly wronged in the past.

  21. “warrenmoon says:
    Sep 13, 2011 9:07 PM
    I didn’t know one name off that list… And the lockout is over, so I don’t care about this anymore”

    ===========

    Even my eight year old niece knows some of those names. If you don’t know any of those names, it must mean you became a fan of the NFL … Oh …. Let’s see …. About 10 minutes ago. What a brain dead piece of work you are not to know any of those names.

  22. Just give the retired players access to a more comprehensive health plan. That’s all I’ve heard them scream about for years. The ubion can afford to increase coverage. The retiree will have to absorb some of the increase but these unions have more money than they know what to do with.

  23. Weird. If your suing the National Football Leagues Player Association are you not suing everyone in the association? Mike Vrabel was actively involved. Brady not so much so his name is obvious for recognition only.

  24. Why is Tom Brady one of the plantiffs, yet I don’t see Drew Brees or Peyton Manning? They were the plantiffs in Brady v. NFL so they should all be on there. From where I stand, Brady seems to be largely uninvolved in that lawsuit despite being the first plantiff (alphabetically).

  25. The plight of the retired players and their health concerns is a serious issue and one I support. However this lawsuit makes me care about it a lot less now. Not that it matters what I think since I’m not the judge.

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