NFL players’ groups sue Upper Deck for $1.5M in unpaid licensing, autograph fees


By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

The NFL Players Association and NFL Players Inc. have filed a lawsuit against Upper Deck this week in the New York Supreme Court seeking nearly $1.5 million in unpaid royalties and autograph fees for more than 220 NFL players.

The lawsuit, which is for “serial breaches of contracts,” asserts that Upper Deck has not disputed its owed monies, and offered to negotiate a payment plan “claiming that Upper Deck’s financial situation was preventing timely payments of the amounts due.” Furthermore, the filing also states that “it became apparent during the course of the discussions that Upper Deck did not intend to honor its contractual obligations. Considering Upper Deck’s recent history of flouting its legal obligations to its licensors, including … admitted counterfeiting [Konami Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit] … and millions of dollars in outstanding payments to other licensors, Plaintiffs gave up hope that Upper Deck would honor its contractual commitments.”

In total, the company owes players more than $1.25 million for autographs alone, with the rest ($368,354.49)  being for licensing and service agreements. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tops the list with $180,000 owed, while new New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow is owed $84,000 and St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is owed $71,960. The NFLPA also is seeking to find out whether the company had players sign additional autographs outside of the NFLPA’s agreements — which also could amount to additional financial damages. This comes on the heels of the company’s lawsuit with Major League Baseball for unpaid settlement agreement money in its trademark lawsuit, while the company also has a few other lawsuits presently in the courts system.

Meanwhile, the 288-page document details amounts owned to players for their autograph deals — some players with multiple unpaid amounts — including:

— Adrian Peterson, $31,600.

— A.J. Hawk, $2,490.

— Anthony Dixon, $6,739.

— Arrelious Benn, $17,184.

— Ben Tate, $21,846.

— Brandon Graham, $6,800.

— Brian Westbrook, $12,775.

— C.J. Spiller, $21.960.

— Colt McCoy, $36,450.

— Damian Williams, $15,936.

— Dan LeFevour, $3,336.

— Dan Marino, $10,000.

— DeMariyus Thomas, $23,288.

— Derrick Morgan, $6,344.

— Dexter McCluster, $13,944.

— Dez Bryant, $22,875.

— Drew Brees, $14,100.

— Eli Manning, $22,924.80

— Eric Decker, $4,276.

— Frank Gore, $4,171.

— Gerald McCoy, $12,943.

— Golden Tate, $22,494.

— Jack Lambert, $5,000.

— Jahvid Best, $23,166.

— Jimmy Clausen, $28,600.

— Jonathan Stewart, $5,390.

— Jordan Shipley, $15,496.

— Kenny Britt, $8,715

— Kevin Kolb, $5,625.

— Mario Williams, $2,250.

— Mark Sanchez, $9,350.

— Matt Cassell, $4,488.

— Matt Ryan, $5,250.

— Matt Schaub, $4,260.

— Mike Kafka, $6,818.

— Mike Williams, $8,064.

— Montario Hardesty, $15,755.

— Ndamukong Suh, $15,800.

— Patrick Willis, $14,460.

— Percy Harvin, $18,382.

— Peyton Manning, $32,100.

— Reggie Wayne, $4,000.

— Ricky Williams, $5,005.50.

— Rob Gronkowski, $3,020.

— Rolando McClain, $11,025.

— Ronnie Brown, $6,358.

— Ryan Grant, $5,000.

— Ryan Mathews, $29,715.

— Sam Bradford, $71,960.

— Sergio Kindle, $7,026.

— Steve Smith, $2,030.

— Tim Tebow, $84,000

— Toby Gerhart, $18,774.

— Tony Pike $7,125.

— Tony Romo, $180,000.

(The list is not complete.)

The lawsuit is seeking payment of the $1.47 million-plus owed, plus contracted interest, expenses paid (including attorneys’ fees) and any other relief deemed appropriate by the courts.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


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  1. XstreamINsanity 23 March, 2012 at 11:22

    I would really like to know all current lawsuits Upper Deck is in as well as what their financial status is. I’d be amazed if the company hasn’t done any cut backs already. Geesh.

  2. chrisolds 23 March, 2012 at 11:39

    Xstream: I’ll just say that I haven’t been able to keep up with them all — am only focusing on those that are most pertinent to issues that would concern the most collectors. This one should affect football offerings and could relate to any outstanding redemptions, too. Besides the MLB suit (linked above), there’s also Upper Deck vs. Upper Deck International (ugly one), Upper Deck vs. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Upper Deck vs. Endurance (insurance), Upper Deck vs. Blowout, etc. Those are the active ones.

  3. XstreamINsanity 23 March, 2012 at 12:12

    @Chris – Thanks. Yeah, I made a poll (maybe you can edit this article and make one too) on the Basketball boards about whether or not people think Upper Deck will be claiming bankruptcy by the end of the year. I’m sorry, but with all of these lawsuits, it’s hard to see them digging themselves out.

  4. Jim K 23 March, 2012 at 12:16

    As long as they continue to produce cards nobody gives a rats arse about this. It’s peanuts.

  5. XstreamINsanity 23 March, 2012 at 12:20

    @Jim – if it’s peanuts, why haven’t they paid? From Chris’ list, they have at least 6 active lawsuits going on.

  6. chrisolds 23 March, 2012 at 12:20

    Jim: It might be hard to put out football sets without any new autos.

    Xstream: I’m not big on polls that are sensational/extreme like that. I think the story speaks for itself in terms of being “not good” big picture. However, none of us know the realities of the finances beyond what is stated in the court documents (and in the story).

  7. chrisolds 23 March, 2012 at 12:21

    Xstream: He does have a bit of a point, though. If you continue to buy, are you part of exacerbating this trend? (Maybe, maybe not.)

  8. lupe sanchez 23 March, 2012 at 13:39

    WOW. Upper Deck should just pack it up. Their latest round of products is garbage. However, they are still better than Tri-star and Panini, as at least Upper Deck doesn’t back door their big hits like the other two do. ………Yeah, I said it. Tri-star and Panini back door their stuff.

  9. RJ 23 March, 2012 at 16:06

    With all the money that is tied up to litigation, I can’t see Upper Deck putting in the money to have a huge booth/corporate area at the 2012 National Convention. Maybe this does signal the end of a Card Company.

  10. Kevin 23 March, 2012 at 16:14

    No prob, File for Bankruptcy, dump all your debts and screw everyone holding redemptions, come back as another company (maybe Pacific) make the same stuff. rinse, repeat.

  11. charles faires 23 March, 2012 at 16:57

    see this is what being greedy gets you, not to mention bad management,upperdeck has sunk lower every year, they should get out of the industry. sorry i did like them at one time

  12. Tom Waldron 23 March, 2012 at 17:29

    WOW HEY uhh I got some Knome Yugio cards from upper deck wanna buy??
    look how bad does it get to get caught counterfiting cards and not paying Top Players Before you declare Bankruptcy. Remember when Upper Deck was going to buy Topps Might be the otherway around. What a coupe that would be. After all if they are this bad If I was Ud I might want to say offer up a spokeman or two for some serious dough. What if Panini grabs Lebron or Jordan out of this mess interesting wouldn’t you say….back at you Chris.
    just saying….

  13. Donald Singleton 23 March, 2012 at 18:08

    How much longer can they hold out before they have to pack it in? I’m amazed that they’re still in business. And with the problems they’re having with paying fees to MLB and the NFLPA, they can kiss any possibility of ever getting those licenses back goodbye.

  14. bill johnson 23 March, 2012 at 20:01

    hard to believe that upper deck was the company that was going to dethrone topps as the number one card marker back in the ’90s. how things have changed.

  15. Mark 23 March, 2012 at 20:24

    I for one am not shocked at this. UD has been losing alot of their big name signers as of late; ex. Kobe, Griffey Jr. , Howe just to name a few. The writing has been on the wall for some time. The company seems to be in a very fast downward spiral. I am just wondering how fast the NFLPA is going to pull the licence agreement. And then how fast the NHL and NHLPA pull theirs???? This really explains the delay on the redemptions and on new product.
    As far as the other companies go maybe they should take a good look at themselves and their product and start weeding out the crap. And finally give the collectors a solid product. Most of the prices are through the roof, and most boxes are straight up duds….. Watched a guy today open a box of 2012 Tribute at 300.00 and if he is able to recoupe 75.00 he is lucky. The companies deserve what they get because alot of the new product looks just like rehashed stuff from 10 years ago just a little shine to it. My opinion.

  16. Nick Tegeler 23 March, 2012 at 21:07

    I guess I should go ahead and wish Upper Deck a long overdue farewell from the hobby. This will probably be the nail in the coffin.

  17. steve-o 23 March, 2012 at 21:59

    Jim… say ‘nobody gives a rats arse’ ?? I’d say…….NOT !! several people I’ve spoken to, do care & yes….quite a few of them do still buy the new products (when its available) and yes-could be exaserbating the “situation”……way back when…..I SURE SUPPORTED THOSE RATHER UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE !!and on that note…………

    ………..on the reference to “upper deck ‘IS’ burning bridges”- I’d say……..”HAS” been burning bridges (and the head bridge burner doiesnt seem to give a hoopdee doo about it0 since at least starting with the start up process of the Lower Deck company itself, specifically the 1990/91 high series (french version) hockey and has continued all the way to right now.

    there is one big word that rings loud & clear (to me at least)………..”KARMA”

  18. steve-o 23 March, 2012 at 22:38

    Mark……weeding out the “crap” and starting over for Upper Deck-would be getting rid of their head honcho, the big cheese, the king puhbah. This has been writing on the wall……but why does it take the readers so long to read whats been rote ??

    I remember back when……ole Richard couldnt even tell people who Reggie Jackson was nor what sport he played in….now he just runs to the bank with money he barely deserves ( I’m being nice….and letting the credit fall…..where it is deserved) and converts it to foreign currency to take to Switzerland or the Bahamas

    hey MJ…….better cash them checks from UD……FAST

  19. Charlie DiPietro 24 March, 2012 at 13:55

    Although my son is an attorney and I find it interesting discussing these types of issues with him, I won’t pretend to know what is going on it this case.

    I do know the player’s representatives are trying to get the most money possible for their clients and they hold their clients autographs ransom until they get their price. I know all card companies want to deliver desirable autographs in their products at a reasonable price point while insuring a profit for all involved in the sales of that product.

    The player’s representatives have been successful in getting their clients so much for their autographs that it has been very difficult for manufactures to produce products with veteran autographs we want at prices we are willing to pay.

    In negotiating future deals, sometimes you leverage what is currently owed. In today’s world of business and legal matters, contracts can be modified if you have leverage. And in today’s world, if you don’t like the way negotiations are going, you file a lawsuit. All I know, is my customers and I love Upper Deck products. We want more.

  20. joe 24 March, 2012 at 14:18

    You know it’s a bad day when you owe Jimmy Clausen, $28,600. Greed is what ultimately killed Upper Deck. So sad. I wasn’t the biggest Upper Deck fan but I will have to admit that they did have a few good products (SP Authentic, SPX, Sweet Spot and Upper Deck Series 1 &2). I only hope that Topps and Panini look at the blue print of what not to do before its to late. There are two crucial steps they should take. Step one: Don’t hire anyone from Upper Deck. Step two: See step one.

  21. Garrett 24 March, 2012 at 14:57

    “Turn out the lights,The parties over ! ” If this isn’t the fat lady singing I don’t know what is… All those redemptions that I still have in my account with them….. Waaa Haaa !!!!! Do ya all feel like as big of sucker as I do ?

  22. Mark 24 March, 2012 at 18:09

    Steve-o … You could not believe how much I laughed at your reply about Reggie Jackson. Yet so true! You forgot one simple fact ….. Richard is probably sailing on that big ass yacht of his to Switzerland or Bahamas. In reality as I have said in another post this is so much like when Fleer went out . There one day and gone the next, only people that got hurt were the collectors.
    Now onto the price of the signatures, I know a pro ball player through a mutual friend and he told me they sign for the card companies at a cut rate. Only because they are signing quantity. Yes don’t get me wrong it still cost to get the signature but no where near what is charged at shows.

  23. steve-o 24 March, 2012 at 18:36

    hey Garrett……sell them to Charlie D…………he says his customers “want more !!!!”

  24. steve-o 24 March, 2012 at 18:40

    why should anybody feel like schmucks for buying a product-that we assumed was legitimate and we trusted ?!?!?! Rich might laugh all the way to the bank……..but whose having the last laugh as more & more lawsuits keep piling up ……I know, I am !!!!!

    wouldnt it be funny (not really……but in a very IRONIC way ), if the game-used and maybe even the auto’s….were not legitimate……..hmmmmmmmmmm

  25. Anthony 24 March, 2012 at 19:04

    I think everyone’s being too presumptuous here. Maybe they’re not paying players cause the players haven’t come through and signed their cards/stickers, and hence, your redemptions do not get redeemed. Who knows.

  26. George 24 March, 2012 at 21:45

    It is kind of disappointing. It is very clear that Upper Deck has fallen on hard times, and similarly that some of this is their own fault. The tragedy is they made beautiful cards, and it looks like I will be stuck with Panini for basketball. Hoops with a matt finish, no real rookie cards, and when they do it will be on Limited with lots of hideous foil. I am sure someone loves it, but somehow, I always look at those old UD exquisite or SP cards and really feel they were the peak of the hobby. Now stuck with Panini with which I do not share their artistic sensibility and Topps for baseball. I like many of their products, but I cannot help feeling that if all three were in business, and each limited to maybe three to four products, I would buy a lot of upper deck. The bottom line is that “exclusive” companies with nearly unlimited numbers of products lead to a lot of junk on the market and very little to be excited about.

  27. Richard 25 March, 2012 at 20:27

    Well, Upper Deck International went BK already, so who knows if/when the main corporation
    will follow. Upper Deck’s list of sins goes back to it very start when they tried to screw
    DeWayne Buice out of his promised 12%.

    I’m sure MJ, Lebron, and Tiger make sure that the checks clear before they sign a damn thing.

    I know that I personally have stopped buying the redemption cards along time back. I still
    remember what happened with Fleer and their bankruptcy where all the redemptions were
    effectively traded in for a lottery type drawing run by a third party who I’m fairly sure skimmed
    the best cards off the top as everyone I knew ended up with garbage cards instead of the
    names promised. I also remember a similar situation almost a decade earlier with Signature rookies. More importantly I remember Upper Deck’s pattern of sending you a card they said
    was “of equal value” or some other piece of junk. Sorry, I bought a redemption card for a
    John Stockton auto card, not a Penny Hardaway Auto photo.

    Yes, they made some great products. They also made some terrible ones.
    I have to wonder what kind of bankruptcy they will go through and who will buy the
    remains of the licenses. I’d visit the auction just to view the spectacle and maybe
    buy a cheap souvenir like the people that bought chunks of Enron.

  28. Chris 25 March, 2012 at 21:42

    If they have bad business practices then they deserve to go out of business imo. I liked some of UD’s stuff but a lot of it I wouldn’t miss if they were gone. The whole football thing with players in their college uni’s was novel for a while but it was a little lame when you’d see an AP in his Oklahoma jersey but the relic swatch was from a Vikings jersey.

    I think it would benefit the hobby a bit if there were less product lines out there in general. It might make some things a little more valuable if there was less of it out there. For example, rookie autographs. I feel like now if you don’t open most products and sell during that week the next week when the next new thing comes out then you take a significant loss because people have moved on. So if UD does go bankrupt or whatever I can’t say I’d miss them.

  29. Anthony 25 March, 2012 at 22:01

    Point is, redemptions only exist cause athletes are ‘too busy’ to sign stickers for 30-60 min of their life. Can card companies really be at fault if an athlete decides to reneg on any agreements to sign autographs. I’m sure it goes both ways plenty of times. I’m not saying UD are a bunch of angels, but it’s a lot of assumptions and one-sided hate, and nobody’s really seeing the whole picture. It’s way easier to pile on the negatives though.

    Long live Panini and their 10 color versions for every card.

  30. XstreamINsanity 27 March, 2012 at 10:47

    @Anthony – I think Topps wins in the variations side of things. Refractor, Blue Refractor, Gold Refractor, Black Refractor, White Refractor, Xfractor, Blue Xfractor, Gold Xfractor, Black Xfractor, Superfractor, etc. Not to mention having AU and non AU versions of them. I agree though, parallels REALLY need to die down. Two parallels, at most.

  31. Mike McGovern 27 March, 2012 at 13:16

    Chris…not to be a stickler, but when listing the cases against Upper Deck, its Plaintiff vs. Defendant. *Most get what you’re trying to convey, but some may read it and think UD is suing all these people instead of vice versa.

    Bankruptcy def appears on horizon. Whether they reorganize debt and stay in business or just pack it in remains to be seen. I wonder how this will affect collectors. With UD owing these athletes $$$ do they become more reluctant to sign for Topps/Panini? Charge more for their auto’s? Companies already have to include the no-names & lower tier autos to make their products cost-effective (esp since they often seem to focus more on quantity of releases than quality). Will this make a growing problem worse? Who knows what other potential repercussions will be felt by consumers…

  32. Nathan Weber 9 April, 2012 at 02:43

    Upper Deck should fold and go out of business! The company is a complete joke! No wonder why so many players won’t sign for them. If they are not getting paid then why sign? There is no reason to. The only reason I even buy Upper Deck cards is because they make hockey cards including some that I want. Plus Panini is not much better than Upper Deck but at least they can get NHL rookie cards with autos out before the end of the NHL regular season. Upper Deck’s flagship rookie autograph product, SPA, has been delayed until early June! The Cup likely won’t be out until the beginning of the next season.

    Definitely don’t need the parahell of Topps and Panini. I don’t mind parallels but I don’t need 10 different versions of the same card!

  33. David Aguero 19 April, 2012 at 19:50

    Hopefully this will make a few changes happen.
    Like Beckett dropping the RC tags off Upper Decks College Cards. Non licensed product should carry Nfl Rc tags.

  34. Sam 29 July, 2012 at 15:50

    That is awesome. I hope that Upper Deck goes bankrupt and that will void Michael Jordan’s contract with them. Then he can sign for other companies and even sign for fans through the mail. It would decrease the value of his autograph so the average person could afford it.

  35. Dana Black 22 September, 2012 at 23:22

    You know who cares? The ARTISTS Upper Deck is not paying. Like myself. Upper Deck owes me close to 600 bucks for Sketch cards and I want to be paid for my Talent and hard work.

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