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Judge halts lawsuit against NFL Players Association

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit accusing the NFL players union of inadequately representing 3,500 retired players, ruling that the complaint's fraud and antitrust allegations had little merit.

One of the many reasons U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said he dismissed the lawsuit was because none of the three retired players who sued the NFL Players Association earlier this year could show they signed any formal marketing agreements with the union in the last four years, the length of the statute of limitations.

But Alsup did give the retired players who sued a glimmer of hope by saying they could revise their lawsuit to address some of the many defects he identified in his 24-page decision issued Thursday.

For instance, lawyers said they recently found licensing agreements retired Packer cornerback Herb Adderley signed with the union in 2003 that they said could satisfy the statute of limitation concerns.

"We think that the judge has given us good guidelines," said lawyer Ronald Katz, who represents Adderley, Bernie Parrish and Walter Roberts.

The three former players sued the union and its marketing arm, Players Inc., and sought class-action status on behalf of some 3,500 retired NFL players. The lawsuit claimed that only 358 retired players received marketing royalties in 2005.

But the judge said the three retired players have failed to show that the union has done anything illegal. For instance, the three retired players complained that the union's exclusive deal with EA Sports to market the gaming company's popular "Madden" series football video game violated antitrust laws and financially hurt the retired players.

"It is not clear how decreased competition in the market for video games featuring active players would cause harm to," the retired players, Alsup wrote, noting that the Madden game contains only images of current players.

"The court found that Parrish's complaint was a combination of smoke and mirrors," said union attorney Jeffrey Kessler.

Alsup gave the retired players a deadline of Sept. 27 to file their revised lawsuit.