The NFLPA handles a wide variety of licensing rights for players, including deals with approved trading-card companies, official jersey sales, and appearances in the Madden video game. Though players aren’t required to participate in the union’s group licensing program, most do. (Perhaps the most notable exception is former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington, who was known in multiple editions of the Madden franchise simply as “Linebacker.”)
The NFLPA currently has concern that unlicensed trading-card companies are trying to intercept incoming players with deals that could jeopardize their ability to participate in the group licensing program. As a result, the union has sent a memo to all agents warning them of these efforts.
“Participation in the NFLPA’s group licensing program presents far more opportunities, and money, than what these unlicensed trading card companies are offering your clients,” the memo states. “It is our understanding that, not surprisingly, the unlicensed trading card companies are failing to disclose to players and/or their representatives the full ramifications of agreeing to such deals. It is up to you, as your client’s representative, to provide him with all of the relevant information and to safeguard his licensing and marketing opportunities.”
While the NFLPA has a clear interest in avoiding the dilution of its mass-marketing muscle by getting as many incoming players as possible to join in the group licensing program, the incoming players need to realize that they could be hurting their ability to do so by cutting their own deals. In the end, each player needs to make his own decision; it’s important, however, that he do so with full information and appreciation of the benefits and potential detriments.