Pro contracts are written in blood and sealed with a demon’s kiss—or at least that’s the way NFL Films would have you believe it.
The league-owned production company responsible for cranking out commercials, TV programs and feature films is disputing claims made by former players who argue the NFL is unlawfully using their images and cutting them out of profits.
According to TMZ, over 600 former players have signed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the use of their likenesses in ongoing NFL Films productions.
Among those listed on the lawsuit are Ricky Watters, Roger Craig and Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail. The vets claim their names and images are valuable and earning the league money without a dime being thrown their way.
TMZ reports that the NFL begs to differ with their former stars, arguing that the players signed over these rights to the league when they inked their NFL contracts. This is where things get a bit dicey.
According to NFLPA advisor Jack Bechta at National Football Post, players signing an NFL contract grant the NFL the right to do everything but keep their life essence stored in a shiny, black gemstone.
Here’s Paragraph 4 from the standard NFL contract regarding publicity rights, per Bechta:
[Player] hereby grants to Club and the League, separately and together, the right and authority to use, and to authorize others to use solely as described below, his name, nickname, initials, likeness, image, picture, photograph, animation, persona, autograph/ signature (including facsimiles thereof), voice, biographical information and/or any and all other identifying characteristics (collectively, "Publicity Rights"), for any and all uses or purposes that publicize and promote NFL Football, the League or any of its member clubs…
Based on that language alone, one might surmise Watters and company don’t have a leg to stand on in their suit. The flip side of this coin, however, is that these are retired pros who may have had different language in their contracts and [insert potential legal loopholes/jargon here].
TMZ reports the league is asking for the case to be thrown out and seeks compensation from the players to cover all legal fees incurred.
We’ll see how this pans out, but the league is notoriously stingy when it comes to shelling out dough to former players. They’ll break out all manner of advanced legal jiu-jitsu if it means avoiding another huge settlement.
Check back for more updates, as we’ll be monitoring this situation closely. In the meantime, go
pirate watch some Raghib Ismail highlights on YouTube. If anyone deserves money for their career’s sizzle reel, it’s The Rocket.
On the Twitters.