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


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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About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on May 6, 2011, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Retired players aren’t marketable? I’ve been watching Professional Football as a fan for 65 years, from the All-America Football Conference, through the American Football League, through today. I can name more players from the 1964 and 1965 AFL Champion Buffalo Bills than I can from today’s team.

    Those who think “retro” doesn’t sell should review the sales of AFL gear from the 2009 50th Anniversary season. In a December 5, 2009 story in the New York Times, Ken Belson wrote “The commemoration of the A.F.L. has provided a much-needed lift for the teams and the league, which were looking for ways to offset the effects of the recession on merchandise sales.
    More than two dozen licensees have been making about 100 A.F.L.-related products, which have produced tens of millions of dollars in sales, said Leo Kane, the N.F.L.’s vice president for consumer products.”

    I for one would gladly buy a video game that used the images of my heroes from the AFL.

  2. Bruce Jarvis

    Point well taken Ange. Doug Allen’s piece seems to fly in the face of the solicitation letter thousands of us former players received under Doug’s signature in the Fall of 2003 (normally I would refer to this gentleman as Mr. Allen, but since we were teammates for a spell I use the first name in this case).

    This was just one of a number of strongly worded marketing pieces sent to us over a number of years clearly imploring all of us to sign a Group Licensing Agreement because “we need your support for the licensing program…”. Now if Doug is not being hypocritical in his writing above and clearly trying to rewrite history, why would he NEED our support and send multiple solicitations at more than a small expense over an extended time frame? You can’t have it both ways, unless as Judge Alsup seemed to infer there was another motivation during the Parrish v. NFLPA lawsuit in which Doug was involved.

    What other possible motivation (if any) we’ll never really know, but could it be that Doug and the others wanted to tie up as many of us as could be lulled into thinking that he and the other folks at the NFLPA were out there diligently marketing us so to provide a “barrier to entry” to another business organization so that the potential competition would not find it worth the risk of trying to organize a marketing effort using former players? After all, the “School of Legends” which is a 3rd party effort to market us old geezers in 2011seems to be doing just what Doug says there is no market for and it’s being done at this very moment under the auspices of the NFLPA!

    And to Doug’s point that he felt the NFLPA would have won the Parrish suit on appeal, three observations: 1) that pontification appears to be in the same vein as the many public times before trial his boss, the late Mr. Gene Upshaw scoffed at anyone who dared suggest that the Parrish suit wouldn’t get laughed out of court; 2) both jury and judge excoriated the NFLPA in the verdict, subsequent order and public comments regarding the NFLPA’s violation of its fiduciary duty to us, and very promptly punitive damages were awarded raising the original $7 Million to a grand total of $28 Million: and 3) any attorney of substance will tell you that when a plaintiff settles for over 90% of the original sum it is a CLEAR indication that the case would be LOST on appeal.

    Rewriting history indeed, nice job Doug…

    • Doug:

      Excellent job of rebutting Doug Allen’s ridiculous re-write of history and the facts. Keep the comments coming. If you get some time, set up a Gravitar image that appears with each of your post comments at this link: http://en.gravatar.com/

      Jeff Nixon

  3. Most of us were even left out of the settlement when the players sued the NFLPA. Now how is this inclusive? How is this a sign of some new found teamwork? This is just a continuation of everything the NFLPA has been doing. This has always been a business of every man for himself and I see no signs of anything changing. All we hear is teamwork, sharing etc, but in a situation that would have gone a long way in solidifying this newfound teamwork, we still have the same result. Some receiving benefits and some not. I was taught a different definition of teamwork, “all for one and one for all.” This definition of of teamwork persists even when there is money involved. Some want teamwork as long as they receive all of the benefits and the rest of the team goes without.

  4. Ray Easterling

    Then why is the N.F.L. network still using and making $ off my playing on the 1977 record setting defense? Every top 10, they are still using our names, play,and images!

    The NFL network must be a non-profit organization!

    Ray Easterling

  5. He can eat some pea-nutz. Yes, there are names and no names – but my fellow retired brotheren have made me realize that there is a lack of creativity OR out of the box thinking when it come to revenue streams for the bros. – i.e. – different video game platforms – old school versus new school players, real time social networking – joe vs pros online matches during NFL season – documentaries, UFC vs NFL gladiator matches – avatars – the list goes on and on….

  6. Joe, email me at tdavis1453@yahoo.com

    Tony Davis

  7. Hi Jeff, Absolutely Great blog..! Please allow me a question. I played in 1988. Accredited with one year exp. This was primrily due to my career being cut short due to a permanent severe injury suffered to my left shoulder, I suffered while playing. I do have a PPI Rating. Because I was not able to play any longer due to my injury. I was not able to earn the number of years of credited service to be vested. Do I have any options or recourse that I could consider for pursuing for any Benefits to care for my needs..? Any assistance is so Greatly Appreciated. Thanks Again and Great Job with your blog!

    • Todd:

      Unless you filed a Line of Duty disability claim before the 15 year deadline (the clock starts ticking from the day you officially retire – or one year from your last season) it will be impossible for you to collect any disability on that injury – with one exception.

      There is a possibility that you can file a disability claim in California if you played at least one game in that state. ie. San Diego Chargers, LA Raiders or San Francisco. Contact Ron Mix at:

      RON MIX, Esq.
      409 Camino del Rio South, Suite 101
      SAN DIEGO, CA 92108
      ronmix@allsportslaw.com
      Tel. (619) 688-9630 | Fax. (619) 688-9604

      • Hi Jeff,

        Other than the Disability Benefit. Are you aware of any other Retirement Benefits that Todd would be entitled too..? Thank You so Kindly for your response.

        Cheers,

        • Todd is eligible to file an application for financial assistance with the Gene Upshaw P.A.T. (Player Assistance Trust Fund) https://www.nflplayercare.com/GeneUpshawFund.aspx

        • I forgot to mention that Todd is also eligible to apply for financial asistance with the NFL Player Care Foundation. Here is more info on that:

          The NFL Player Care Foundation is an independent organization established to improve the quality of life for our retired players through financial grants and research. Since its inception in 2007, the Foundation has used a portion of its $17 million endowment to underwrite medical research and national health screenings. Equally important is its role in providing monetary grants to qualified NFL alumni who are experiencing financial hardships, including grants to eligible players who need financial assistance in paying for the costs of Player Care Plan programs such as joint replacement, spine treatment or neurological care. As a way to provide a centralized financial resource to former players, the Player Care Foundation has recently expanded to include the Dire Need Fund. All applications will be processed through the Player Care Foundation, but may be submitted through either the PCF or the NFL Alumni Offices.

          The grant applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, with reference to the following eligibility guidelines:
          Applicant must be a former NFL player with at least two credited seasons of NFL play, and such former player’s spouse and children are eligible. Applicant must meet financial qualifications.
          First-time applicants will be preferred to repeat applicants.

          For more information contact (800) 635-4625 or (954) 639-4584.

  8. Did the Replacement Players in 1987 ever recieve any NFL Benefits under the Bert Bell Retirement System..?

  9. Why doesnt the NFL just do insentive contracts rather then giving the players so much money. Why doesnt the government get out of the nfl and let the free market do its own thing?

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