Eller Misleads Hall of Famers; Legends Speak Out Against Lawsuit

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.”

Art Shell and Jack Youngblood
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.




Print Name

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NFLPA And Long Term Health Care


The NFLPA’s Position Regarding Long-term Health Care

It is our understanding that there is some confusion about the NFLPA’s position in collective bargaining back when we were the exclusive bargaining agent for players and were engaged in discussions with the NFL about long-term care insurance. The following letter, which was written in November 2010 when we were the union for NFL players, clearly states our position at the time about long-term care for players. This letter is being provided for historical purposes only as the NFLPA is no longer the bargaining agent for NFL players.


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Trial Regarding Gene Upshaw’s Will Would Have Been Compelling


May be if the trial moved forward, then the NFLPA building named “UPSHAW PLACE” would be renamed after someone less supercilious. But the Upshaw estate is not going to receive the whole $19,700,000. They are going to give a portion to Gene’s other son Eugene Upshaw III. Only a malevolent father would cut his own son out of his will? (that would be Uppy). Also, remove the dire need fund name of “Gene Upshaw dire need fund” to a credible name. But if there was a United States Department of Labor audit of the Bell/Rozelle Disability Plan and Board members, then there would be little need for any dire need fund for retired NFL players. Only this audit would show the fraud along with ERISA violations & HIPAA – non compliance and Breach of Fiduciary by the NFL and their accomplice, the former NFLPA.  


Trial regarding Gene Upshaw’s will would have been compelling

Posted by Mike Florio on May 6, 2011, 9:12 PM EDT
Getty ImagesEarlier this week, MDS pointed out a report that Gene Upshaw’s widow received $15 million in deferred compensation after the Hall of Fame lineman and former NFLPA executive director died following a brief bout with pancreatic cancer in 2008. 

Tom Jackman of the Washington Post, who broke the news of the $15 million payout, also has tracked down some details regarding a legal fight over Upshaw’s will, which was scheduled to go to trial this week.  The case ultimately was settled out of court.

Upshaw’s son from a prior marriage, Eugene Upshaw, III, challenged a will that was signed on the day Upshaw died, August 20, 2008.  Eugene III claimed that his father “was in no condition to sign anything or give any instructions as he was sedated and not conscious.”  Upshaw’s widow, Terri, claimed that her husband was “coherent and able to speak.”

But Upshaw wasn’t able to sign the will, so his friend, Norman Singer, signed it for Upshaw.  Eugene III challenged the document because it gave his father’s entire estate, worth $19.7 million, to Terri.  If Upshaw had died without a will, Virginia law (his state of residence) would have limited Terri’s share to only one third of the estate, with Eugene III and Upshaw’s two other children sharing the remaining two thirds.

Per Jackman, Eugene III was prepared to introduce testimony from medical experts, who would have testified that Upshaw “would not have appropriately appreciated the implications of any of the directions he allegedly gave to Norman Singer.”  Though the ultimate division of the estate isn’t known, it’s safe to assume that Eugene III received a substantial share.

The obvious lesson here is that everyone with any assets needs to have a will.  Upshaw’s death came quickly, too quickly for him to get his affairs in order.  Even at age 63, he either assumed that the end was decades into the future — or he simply preferred not to think about it.  That lack of planning resulted in two teams of lawyers making plenty of money as they sorted out the details.

Dave Pear

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Covenant Between Fans And Sports Is A Facade

Covenant between fans and sports is a facade
Thursday, 12 May 2011

NFL Smoke & Mirrors 

It is almost laughable to hear sports owners and employees (coaches, front office executives and players) talk about their concerns for the fan, the mythical covenant that National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern uses in biblical terms to explain the bond and trust that sports and fans have. It is a mere fantasy. Sports is a big business with cutthroats all about and the fan is the last to know.
Sy Syms used to use a tag line in his television commercials in the New York market and other points in selling his clothes store saying that “an educated consumer is our best customer.” If that axiom was applied to the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League or big time college sports, anyone with any inkling of how the sports industry works would walk away before they were fleeced.
Sports fans have online petitions, Facebook groups trying to show their muscle in an effort to put an end to the NFL lockout. They should devote their energies to other pursuits. Neither the owners nor the players care about sports fans except to lift money out of their pockets to pay for the debt service on a municipally built facility or for an autograph at some show.
But sports fans keep coming back no matter what is thrown at them. The NFL has a more serious problem than the lockout. The health of former players is becoming a huge issue. Football is a dangerous occupation. President Theodore Roosevelt demanded the game on the college level be cleaned up back in 1905 or the game was destined for the trash heap. College players were being killed and maimed.
Roosevelt used the bully pulpit of the Oval Office and browbeat the powers of football in those days, coaches from Harvard, Yale and Princeton into changing the rules of the game to make football safer.
More than a century later, the game remains brutal and players — with the exception of some kickers and punters — pay for their time in the game. NFL owners and the various incarnations of players’ representatives collectively bargained working conditions for decades. Players make a lot of money over a very short period of time but only a select few vested veterans get some form of pension and healthcare after their careers end. Healthcare benefits run out five years after a player is released for a final time or retires. The cumulative effects of being battered from July through December on almost a daily basis for years kicks in sometime after that five-year window closes.
Those players have pre-existing conditions and cannot get health insurance, which forces them at an early age to apply for social security insurance and Medicare. The “discarded” players who qualify for health benefits and pensions (five years in the league in the 1960s, three years today) seem to have roadblock after roadblock thrown at them by the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan board.
The NFLPA has not followed the path blazed by the National Basketball Players Association and the Major League Baseball Players Association to take care of old performers. In this negotiation, it seems that “Money Now” is still the motto.
The players association has failed in protecting players for decades and went after the best contracts they could in terms of money now. The carnage of professional football is well documented. Some NFL players are well compensated but the rank and file players never get that rich and have lifetime health injuries.
Gail Cogdill was a wide receiver with the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Colts between 1960 and 1971. Cogdill has some heart problems and was thinking about moving into an assisted living home just in case his condition got worse. He filled out the paperwork and was rejected. He could not afford to pay for it.
NFL players who quit before 1993 don’t get much of a pension. Cogdill gets $200 a month for 11 years service. He took an early retirement, which was a mistake.
“In the 1970s they told us we weren’t going to live long; players died at 54, so they told us to take early retirement pensions. There must have been between 2,000 to 3,000 who took it,” he said.
Cogdill, who just turned 74, beat the actuary’s estimates on the average lifespan of an NFL player. He is still in the loop talking to other players. Cogdill freely admits that he really doesn’t know why there is a lockout and he isn’t alone among the former players.
“About 85 to 90 percent don’t understand what is going on,” he said. “But (the players) don’t care about us and we don’t care about them. We aren’t getting what we need. I could never figure out why they are paying a rookie (St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford) all that money.”
Bradford apparently got a $50 million bonus from St. Louis Rams ownership.
Cogdill’s peers all together in the 11 years he played with adjustments for inflation did not get $50 million.
Cogdill rattles the names of friends who have been failed by the NFLPA’s misguided goals for “Money Now” and not worry about the long time health problems. Cogdill and his peers were told they weren’t going to live long anyway.
“(Former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker) Clyde Werner has had 15 back operations and paid for all of them,” said Cogdill. “Milt Plum (Cogdill’s quarterback in Detroit) needed a hip operation.” If you don’t make a call (to the players association) you may not get help.”
“Johnny Unitas got nothing (for an unusable right hand),” Cogdill said of the hall of famer, and the man who opened TV exec’s eyes to the NFL.”
Cogdill doesn’t have money to get into an assistant living home in an NFL program.
While Cogdill battles his health problems, he is mentally sharp, which seems to be a rarity in the world of former players but he cannot get the assistance he really needs. But lockout or not, the business of the NFL goes on.
New Jersey’s Zygi Wilf, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, is closer or maybe further from getting a new stadium in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul. Wilf will kick in money in the estimated $1.1 billion project but getting the rest of the money out of government coffers may prove to be tough.
Minnesota is one of the NFL franchises that should serve as the poster child for the NFL lockout but Minnesota, Oakland and others are not fingered as culprits. The NFL “leaguethink” mentality has shutdown the reason the NFL owners have locked out the players. Minnesota and Oakland have old municipally funded stadiums and those old buildings don’t have revenue streams that new playpens have. As the new stadiums opened, revenues increased, which meant not only a bump in the salary cap but the salary floor.
The poorer revenue-generating places cannot keep up with the (Jerry) Joneses (in Arlington, Texas). That is the problem. The players don’t see the owners plight and want to keep status quo in terms of money not health benefits and increased benefits for former players. That is the answer for Cogdill who doesn’t know what the owners and players are fighting over. That is probably the answer for sports fans who also don’t know the facts or don’t want to know the facts.
The covenant between the sport and the fans is nothing but a facade.



Evan Weiner 

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on “The Politics of Sports Business.” His book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle.

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Former NFL Player’s Inc. Director Calls Most Retired Players Unmarketable

Former NFL Player’s Inc. Director calls most retired players unmarketable

Posted by Jeff Nixon

On February 17, 2011 Doug Allen, former assistant executive director of the NFLPA and former president of Players Inc. responded to a Sports Business Journal article entitled: NFL Alumni hires 16W to create licensing program

His article slipped under my radar, but with the new controversy over the $15 million in deferred compensation that Gene Upshaw’s estate is fighting over, I found it on a search of NFL Players – the marketing arm of the Union.

In the article (attached below my comments), Doug Allen confirms that he and Gene Upshaw thought most former players had little marketing value to the NFLPA and its money making machine at Players Inc.

If that was true, then why did they ask all retired players to sign Group Licensing Agreements? And why did a Judge and a jury find them negligent and award 28.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages?  The judge said the NFLPA had failed miserably in their effort to market retired players.

It is sad to know that when the NFLPA had the opportunity to market a considerable number of players in the EA Madden Video game, they told EA to scramble the images as a way of avoiding the payment of royalties to retired players.

The one thing that Doug Allen fails to mention in his article is that the Group Licensing Agreement specifically said “The moneys generated by such licensing of retired player group rights will be divided between the player and an escrow account for all eligible NFLPA members who have signed a group licensing authorization form.”

As you all know, they never divided the money and put it in an escrow account to be equally divided among all the retired players that signed GLA’s.

After losing the class action lawsuit, the NFLPA dropped the GLA program for retired players and farmed it out to the School of the Legends.

It is important to know that just like his predecessor, DeMaurice Smith is the Chairman of NFL Players Inc. – and as such, he has the power to “giveth and taketh away.”

Don’t you dare speak out against the NFLPA, or you might find yourself like Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure – blackballed from the Players Inc. country club.  Here is an article I wrote about this issue back on June 9, 2010:  NFL Players Inc paid 13.89 million to 150 former NFL players from 2002-07

The NFL, through its subsidiary – NFL Ventures, pays the NFLPA and active players about $44 million annually to market their images to the public.  They all split the money equally.  A player could be a perennial benchwarmer, or the Super Bowl winning QB.  It doesn’t matter, they all get the same amount.  That’s teamwork.  That’s fair.  That’s something the NFL Alumni needs to think about when they craft their GLA’s.

Doug Allen doesn’t believe that many of the Hall of Fame, or high profile players would be interested in sharing any of their royalties with the “average” player……and maybe he’s right!

All I know is that Joe “D” said he would do it.  That’s because Joe knows that it takes teamwork to get the job done and he’s not going to abandon his former teammates now that his playing days are over. Like a good soldier, he believes in the creed “leave no man behind”.

I look forward to the day when the NFL Alumni starts implementing group licensing agreements with all of its members.  If the NFL can give the NFLPA and 1,800 active players $44 million annually to market them, shouldn’t they at least throw us a bone?

We may not have the  earning potential of a Hall of Fame player, but we are not “dog food” either.  Most of us have been good ambassadors for the NFL; working in our local communities via our NFLPA and NFL Alumni Chapters. We are marketing the NFL to all generations of fans and for the most part, we are doing it for free.

Like most players, I have too much dignity to beg like a dog, but as they say over at ESPN – C’mon Man!

If the NFL Alumni wants to see a surge in its membership, they need to make sure that NFL Alumni “members” are eligible to sign a GLA and they need to push the NFL to commit to providing our organization with at least one tenth of the money they do for the active players. That would be about 4.4 million annually.  If we split it evenly like the active players do, we would all get a nice little dividend at the end of the year.

But that’s just the beginning!  There are many revenue generating ideas out there. Just ask Joe DeLamielleure. He was the one that brought Stoneacre to the attention of the NFL Alumni.  That company has now partnered with the NFL Alumni and will be working on increasing our fan-base and revenues. Look at what they are doing for ONMC (Official NASCAR Member Club).  Let’s hope they can do the same for our organization.

Bottom line:  Retired players are marketable, we just need people that are effectively marketing us……..not people like Doug Allen who took the money and ran!

Here is Doug Allen’s article:

Marketing interest not equal for all NFL retirees – Doug Allen

An article on the new relationship between 16W and NFL Alumni [SportsBusiness Journal, Jan. 24-30] mischaracterizes my testimony in the Parrish case. I agree with George Martin that a vibrant market exists for retired players, but only for some players. An undisputed fact in the Parrish case, which my testimony supported, is that NFL Players (formerly Players Inc) paid millions of dollars to hundreds of retired players over the years in question in the suit. In fact, each of the hundreds of retired players whose names and images were provided by Players Inc to a licensee was paid by Players Inc. Companies were then, and are now, willing to pay for the right to use hundreds of well-known and marketable former players such as Joe Namath or Jim Brown, but they were then, and are now, much less interested in using the thousands of average retired players who are relatively anonymous. What companies did not do then, and do not want to do now, is pay extra for the opportunity to access all retired players.

The model is different for active players who receive much of their licensing compensation on an equal share basis (in direct payment to the players and in payment to the NFLPA to fund its operations). Why? Because licensees never know when an unheralded late-round draft choice will get hot during the season and be instantly in demand in the marketplace. Or when a team not expected to do well will suddenly catch fire and be in contention for the Super Bowl. So licensees pay guarantees and royalties to NFL Players for the right to use all active players on the roster, to protect themselves in the marketplace and to meet the demands of consumers. Licensees don’t have that problem with retired players. They know that Doug Allen will never be famous or marketable like Namath or Brown. What they told us when I represented Players Inc was that, while they appreciated the opportunity to use all retired players, since they didn’t need most of them, Players Inc should pay for their availability out of existing royalties. That would have required taking money from active players, and from well-known and marketable retired players, to pay to thousands of retired players who were not marketable and were not used by licensees.

Despite some public comments to the contrary, most marketable retired players were not willing to share with all retired players, what, for many, was their main source of income. And active players were already using their leverage to get increases in benefits for retired players and were paying for a fully staffed NFLPA retired players department and benefits department out of active player licensing proceeds.

While I believe that the decision in the Parrish case would have been overturned on appeal, I understand De Smith’s decision to settle the matter to help unite retired and active players. I wish anyone representing retired players in the licensing and appearance marketplace great success, but, because I understand the realities of that marketplace and my place in it, I won’t be surprised or disappointed if I am not one of the retired players utilized by licensees.

Doug Allen
Bal Harbour, Fla

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Welcome To The Game Plan Foundation

Hello world! My name is Leonard Marshall and I am a former American football defensive lineman who played twelve seasons in the National Football League (NFL). I played defensive end for the New York Giants for 10 seasons, then played as a defensive tackle for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins. I was also a starter on the Giants teams that won Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV.

I was drafted by the Giants in the second round out of Louisiana State University (LSU) in the 1983 NFL Draft. I was selected to the Pro Bowl for his performances in the 1985, 1986, and 1991 seasons.

Thank you for coming and feel free to contact me.

-Leonard Marshall

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