As with the 10-man contingent of current players involved in litigation against the league, headed up by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and ably assisted by supporting players Ben Leber and Brian Robison, the former players are saddling up with Hall of Famer Carl Eller to plead the case of NFL alumni – who retired when they had a union, not a trade association.
Eller, former Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, former Vikings running back Obafemi Ayandbadejo and Ryan Collins, who played his college football at St. Thomas University in St. Paul and one year in the NFL in 1999, were named as plaintiffs in a 44-page complaint filed on behalf of former NFL players – seeking class-action status for the members of the former NFLPA.
The former players want the NFL lockout lifted to assure that pensions and heath benefits to the league's trailblazers remain funded. According to the court papers, if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached before March 11, 2012, the benefits provided to the league alumni will be cut off.
The league offers former players retirement, disability (opinions differ to the extent of coverage) and death benefits. The pension plan is subsidized by the league's 32 teams, but can be terminated if a CBA isn't in place for more than one year. The current CBA officially expired March 12. If a new deal isn't struck between now and that date in 2012, all former players would come off the books, according to the filing.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. Attorneys for the players are hoping that the case will be absorbed into the case being filed by Brady et al in the courtroom of Judge Susan Richard Nelson.
If the case isn't included into the litigation being brought by the current players, it is still expected to move forward as a legal voice being raised for former players and their interests in resolving the current labor impasse.
Shawn Stuckey, a former linebacker for the Patriots and Buccaneers and an attorney representing Eller and the other former players, told The Associated Press that the former players want to show a united front with the current generation of players fighting for their share of the profits in the business of the NFL.
"We thought the best way to remain in solidarity with all the players was to give everyone a voice at the table," Stuckey told the AP. "We wanted to make sure that we're consistent with the goals of all NFL players. We want everyone on the same page. We hope that our efforts from this point forth remain consistent."
Whether the solidarity of current and former players will create the united front needed for Judge Nelson to lift the lockout and return the business of football to the national landscape or not is still up to speculation. But, with all precincts heard from, it is expected that an informed decision – one way or the other – will come from the bench.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.