WASHINGTON—Several Pro Football Hall of Famers are upset that their names were involuntarily attached to a letter sent to fellow retired players in support of a lawsuit against the National Football League and National Football League Players Association.
“First of all, I was surprised that they came out and listed names—my name in particular—without me having given permission to even use it,” said Jack Youngblood, a 2001 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I had no idea what this lawsuit was all about in the first place. When I saw my name on this letter that I had not requested to be a part of, it was a shock to me.”
NFL Legends Art Shell and Jack Youngblood
The letter, which the Hall of Famers do not endorse, asks for retired player support of the Carl Eller 2 class-action lawsuit against the NFL and NFLPA. They did not authorize their names to be used in this fashion, the NFLPA has learned.
Several of the NFL legends went on record to discuss the situation.
“I do not want my name associated with the potential lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Players Association,” said Class of 2008 inductee Fred Dean. “I wasn’t aware of what was being done.”
Class of 1975 Hall of Famer Lenny Moore wants to publicly make clear that in no way, shape or form does he support a lawsuit against either the NFL or NFLPA.
“I just want it known that we’re for anything that’s already been negotiated,” Moore said. “And I definitely didn’t want my name hooked in with anything that was delaying this process. Now that the process has gone through, that’s where my name is linked because that’s who I am a part of.”
The Hall of Famers were told by Michael Hausfeld and Eller that they believed they wanted to be heard, so Hausfeld and Eller started a petition that was different from the lawsuit. Their approach in selling the former players something different than the truth resulted in many former players being blindsided.
The letter, which went out in support of the lawsuit, named dozens of Hall of Famers to leverage their fame in order to get other members to sign up. Those football greats have spoken out against it, saying they don’t want to be responsible for getting in the way of a fair settlement agreement and that they were tricked into believing their names were used under false pretenses.
“I do not want to have my name involved in any lawsuit,” said Mel Renfro, a 1996 inductee into Canton.
In exclusive interviews, the legends are seeking to clear the air on their non-involvement with the lawsuit. They have no desire to participate in this matter. They have said they did not wish to be a part of anything that jeopardized or delayed the settlement talks, or keep professional football away from the greatest fans in the world.
Class of 1986 inductee Kenny Houston said, “We didn’t know we had representation at the [bargaining] table. I was told, ‘We need your signature so we can have representation at the table.’ That’s why I signed the [petition]. I didn’t know anything about the lawsuit.
“The lawsuit would have been if we didn’t have representation at the table. And so my understanding was, I thought Carl (Eller) was in the room or something. This was something that I didn’t know anything about. And then we signed a letter—at least that’s what I thought the letter would be.”
Art Shell, a 1989 inductee into Canton, said the situation “was such a rush, rush thing.”
Shell said, “I was presented this like, ‘We need to get back at the [bargaining] table—that’s what this is for.’ So everybody goes, ‘OK, we need to get back to the table.’ And I didn’t realize we already have somebody at the table.
“The problem is, there are so many entities out there that a lot of the guys don’t know who’s who. When a lot of those contracts were negotiated, at the time, that money would have been good. But now, that money ain’t close to being good for today’s world. I thought that the ownership and the players would come up with something good for the retirees. But I tell you what, guys have got to be excited about this (retiree benefits in the new deal).”
Read the full text of the letter:
July 21, 2011
Dear Retired Players:
We NFL Hall of Famers support the work being done by the Hausfeld LLP and Zelle Hofmann law firms on behalf of NFL retired players through the Carl Eller Class Action suit against the League and Players Association. Please review and sign the attached letter of support. We need to send the League and the Players Association a unified message! Please do your part to help secure needed increases to retiree rights and benefits.
Hall of Famers who are in Support:
I am a retired player in the National Football League (“NFL”). I understand that the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) is reconstituting itself as a union and plans to commence collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL that will include matters relating to already retired NFL players. I also understand that recently Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and several other notable Hall of Famers have been outspoken about the NFLPA’s failure to advocate effectively for retired players.
[I hereby advise both the NFL and NFLPA that] I do not consent to the NFLPA bargaining any retiree rights on my behalf. I also do not authorize the NFLPA to act on my behalf with regard to the implementation of any retirement benefits to which I am or may be entitled.