- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2015

Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon has filed a class action lawsuit against FanDuel on behalf of all NFL players whose names and likenesses have been misappropriated by the major daily fantasy sports company, according to a press release issued on Friday by Garcon’s agent.

Two law firms, Murray Murphy Moul + Basil and Bailey Glasser, announced the class action suit has been filed with the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

The complaint alleges that FanDuel, in the operation and sale of its online gaming product, knowingly and improperly exploits the popularity and performance of Garcon and other NFL players without their authority or valid license. The complaint also alleges that FanDuel uses the names and likenesses of NFL players, without consent, in a comprehensive television advertising campaign to promote the commercial enterprise and collect revenue from entry fees. Other players who feel aggrieved by FanDuel have been extended an invitation to join the litigation.

FanDuel, which was founded in 2009, boasts over 1 million paying users. Users can win cash prizes by paying to enter leagues where they select players within the limits of a salary cap on a daily, or weekly, basis, in the case of the NFL. FanDuel estimates it will pay out $75 million per week during the 2015 season.

DraftKings, the other major daily fantasy sports company, has a licensing agreement with the NFL Players Association. FanDuel does not, though it has partnered with the NBA.

“I am bringing this lawsuit against FanDuel for using my name, image, and likeness in both daily fantasy contests and through advertising on TV ads and infomercials,” Garcon wrote in a statement regarding the lawsuit. “FanDuel has taken the liberty to engaged in these actions without my consent and without proper licensing rights. As a result of these activities, FanDuel daily fantasy contests have shown increasing revenues leading to large profits. Therefore, on behalf of myself as well as any other players who are being treated unjustly, I chose to file a complaint.”

Last season, Garcon promoted FanDuel in a series of messages posted on his Twitter account, encouraging users to play games on the site with a personalized link.

According to a person familiar with the situation, Garcon and other NFL players had individual marketing deals that were exclusive to promotions via social media. FanDuel abruptly canceled the deals and issued small settlements after they felt the campaign was not drawing the attention they envisioned. However, FanDuel maintained these deals with a small group of NFL players and also pursued deals with individual NFL teams.

The Redskins have a marketing agreement with FanDuel, with signage installed above the video board behind the end zone this season.

The owners of two franchises — the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft — have stakes in DraftKings, the primary competitor to FanDuel.

“We believe this suit is without merit,” said a FanDuel spokesperson. “There is established law that fantasy operators may use player names and statistics for fantasy contests. FanDuel looks forward to continuing to operate our contests which sports fans everywhere have come to love.”

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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