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Ex-NFL players file suit in Pittsburgh over royalties

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Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 9:39 p.m.

More than 560 retired professional football players filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pittsburgh over royalties they say the league owes them for using their images in commercials, best-of reels and replays of old games.

The players rejected a $42 million settlement the NFL offered in a previous lawsuit, in part because the money, spread out over eight years, does not go directly to the players, said Jason Luckasevic, the lawyer who filed the new lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District for Western Pennsylvania.

The estate of late Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum, whose collision with Steeler John “Frenchy” Fuqua set up Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception on Dec. 23, 1972, is lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“How many times have those images (from the Immaculate Reception) been shown? Daily? Hourly?” said Luckasevic, a lawyer at the Uptown firm Goldberg Persky White. “The NFL is making money off of that, but the players are not.”

The NFL settled the previous case in March by forming a Common Good Fund to distribute the money to groups that help retired players with medical, housing and career transition costs, according to a statement the league released March 18.

“We are disappointed that these retired players believe that additional litigation will be productive in the face of (Minnesota District) Judge (Paul) Magnuson's decision in April finding that the settlement negotiated under the close supervision of the court is fair and reasonable,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “We agree with the judge that the settlement will benefit the large class of retired players, particularly those in need of medical and financial assistance.”

Luckasevic said musicians and actors receive royalties any time their songs or movies are played, and it should be no different for retired football players.

“The players that make those films — the greatest hits of all time, the greatest games of all time — they get nothing for it,” Luckasevic said.

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7900 or

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