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Retired Elvin Bethea & Five Others Sue NFL

A group of six retired football players fronted by NFL Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea have decided to sue the league for using their names and images for profit without consent.

The retirees filed a class-action lawsuit in federal district court in Minneapolis yesterday, accusing the NFL of using their identities in films, highlight reels and memorabilia in a bid to promote the league’s “glory days” without offering compensation to the players.

The amount that the former players are claiming is currently unknown, but Bob Stein, lawyer for the group, has suggested that the sum could exceed $5 million. “It’s really turned into big property,” said Stein, who played in the NFL for seven years.

“A couple of my old teammates were asking me if when we played, we gave the league the right to use any kind of publicity forever. I can tell you the motivation of the action and the representatives are to try and help everybody,” Stein added.

The other players currently listed in the lawsuit are Jim Marshal, Ed White, Joe Senser, Fred Dryer and Dan Pastorini, but Stein expects many more players to add their claims to the class-action suit. He explained that many retired players were left struggling financially while being forced to deal with the burden of injuries suffered during their playing days.

Certainly, the retirees’ lawsuit has some precedence in American courts already, as in 2007 a group of over 2,000 former players sued the league for using their likenesses in video games, trading cards and other sports memorabilia. In June of this year, the group was awarded $26.25 million after it was deemed that the NFL has not actively pursued the necessary marketing deals for such products.
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