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Thousands opt out of class-action lawsuit

MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands of retired NFL players have opted out of a $50 million class-action settlement in a case that accused the league of using their names and images without their consent.

But in papers filed Friday, players' attorney Dan Gustafson said the settlement should be approved because it is "fair, reasonable, adequate and in the best interests of the Class."

Gustafson wrote that more than 25,000 players — or more than 90 percent of the settlement class — chose to participate. Meanwhile, 2,140 players — less than 8 percent — asked to be excluded.

Eighteen players filed timely objections, and can argue against the settlement at a final approval hearing later this month. A 19th player filed an objection after the deadline. Some say the settlement should be rejected because it doesn't make direct payments to class members, and that it unfairly gives varying benefits to different players.

The federal class-action lawsuit was filed in 2009 in Minneapolis by Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea and five other retired players. They accused the NFL of blatantly exploiting retired players' identities in films, highlight reels and memorabilia to market the league's "glory days."

The settlement, reached in April, calls for the NFL to pay $42 million over eight years toward a trust to help retired players with issues such as medical expenses, housing and career transition. It also establishes a licensing agency for retirees to ensure compensation for the use of their identities.

A hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Those who chose to be excluded can pursue their own cases against the NFL in the future. But U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson has issued an injunction barring similar lawsuits from going forward while this case is pending.

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