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Arrington Takes Issue With NFLPA Licensing
By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 13, 2004; Page D09
LaVar Arrington's eight-year, $68 million extension has taken its latest legal twist with the linebacker's attorney, Don Petersen, contending that his client never agreed to the NFL Players Association's group licensing agreement, which grants permission to sell merchandise with Arrington's likeness or image, including his number 56 Redskins jersey.
Petersen recently sent a letter to Reebok advising the company to stop using Arrington's likeness. Petersen is considering legal options, but hopes to reach a resolution with the NFLPA.
"Anybody who has done anything," Petersen said of using Arrington's image, "will get a letter just to make sure they are on notice."
According to an NFLPA source who requested anonymity yesterday, Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA's executive director, is trying to reach a settlement despite Upshaw's belief that Arrington legally granted his marketing rights to the group. The NFLPA said Arrington did so on Dec. 26 when he signed an extension with the Redskins by not crossing out a standard clause in his contract -- section 4b, which gives merchandising rights to Players Inc. (Players Inc. is the licensing and marketing arm of the NFLPA.)
However, Arrington questions the legality of the clause and believes it is superseded by a separate agreement with the NFLPA that the linebacker hasn't yet signed. According to sources familiar with the situation, Upshaw previously had tried to persuade Arrington to sign the agreement.
Arrington's Redskins jersey has been available in stores for the first time. He declined to join Players Inc. by crossing out the standard clause when he was selected No. 2 overall in the 2000 NFL draft. The linebacker was the only active NFL player to challenge the NFLPA's group licensing agreement. The standard rate paid is 6 percent of the wholesale cost for merchandise such as jerseys, trading cards, T-shirts and video games. In 2001, Arrington successfully filed a lawsuit against three trading card companies for using his likeness without permission.
"I didn't agree [in December]," Arrington said yesterday at Redskins Park, "but it's still kind of cool to see a lot of people wearing my jersey. I hope all this works out so I can just play ball."
Arrington has the most sought-after jersey among Redskins players, the club said.
"Until this year, fans requested on a regular basis the ability to buy LaVar's official jersey and other merchandise related to that agreement," said Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson, who added that the issue was primarily between Arrington and the NFLPA. "There's never been a shortage of demand."
Upshaw also hopes to reach a settlement in Arrington's contract dispute with the Redskins. Last month, Arrington filed a non-injury grievance with the NFL alleging that a $6.5 million roster bonus was missing from his new contract that had been agreed upon in principle. Arrington said that he and his agent, Carl Poston, didn't have an opportunity to thoroughly examine the contract because of deadline pressure.
Last month, Arrington made harsh comments about the Redskins' front office, including owner Daniel Snyder. But several days ago the linebacker met with Snyder to discuss the issue. "I think the meeting went well," Arrington said yesterday. "It was very productive for the two of us."