UPDATE: On July 13th, ex-Green Bay
Packer, Darrell Thompson, filed a similar class action lawsuit in the District
of Minnesota. View or download the complaint filed in Thompson v. NFL, 11-01900 (D. Minn. 07-13-11).
Sports Illustrated called NFL Films "the most effective
propaganda organ in the history of corporate America." Whether that's true or
not, retired NFL player, Fred Barnett, thinks the NFL and NFL Films is, at the
very least, an effective organ for false endorsement and misappropriation of
the right of publicity.
On July 5th, Mr. Barnett sued the National Football League
for using the images of retired players. In filing the class action complaint, Mr. Barnett and the class seek to "obtain their fair share of the revenues the
NFL has earned, and will earn, by its use of retired players' identities."
The proposed class which Mr. Barnett seeks to represent is composed of:
All persons who played
professional football for any NFL member team, who are retired or no longer
active, and whose name, voice, image, likeness, or other indicia of identity
has been used by the NFL to promote the NFL or any of its member teams, sell
products or services, or otherwise to increase the brand awareness or obtain
revenue for the NFL or any of its member teams.
In accusing the NFL of false endorsement and misappropriation of the
right of publicity, Mr. Barnett acknowledges that the NFL's standard player
contracts require active players to grant the NFL the authority to use the
players' names, images, and likenesses to publicize and promote the NFL. However,
Mr. Barnett alleges that any such assignments do not apply to retired players,
as their player contracts are, by definition, no longer in force.
Mr. Barnett further alleges.
NFL Films produced and
distributed a production called "The Complete History Philadelphia Eagles" in
1994. Plaintiff Barnett appears as a performer in the production. The NFL also
creates an entire line of NFL Films productions for each team, for each year.
Regardless of the team's performance, the productions paint the season in the
most positive, promotional light possible. NFL Films produced and distributed
"Video Yearbook" productions for the Philadelphia Eagles throughout the 1990's.
Plaintiff Barnett was the team's starting wide receiver from 1990-95 and as
such appears regularly in these promotional films.
Plaintiff and all members
of the Class whom the NFL has used to generate revenue are readily identifiable
because they are portrayed by name, image, uniform, number, and other unique
indicia. In addition, on information and belief, the NFL has digitized its
entire NFL Films library and archives so that Plaintiff and class members may
be searched for and isolated by year, game, team, and even player name.
View or download the entire
complaint filed in Fred Barnett vs. National Football League, 11-01782 (D. Minn. 07/05/11)
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