Six players who participated in the "Super Bowl Shuffle," the music video that helped immortalize the 1985 Chicago Bears, filed a lawsuit Friday to control the use of their likenesses and make sure the profits are used for charity, according to multiple reports.
Forbes and the Chicago Sun-Times report Hall of Famer Richard Dent along with Willie Gault, Jim McMahon, Otis Wilson, Steve Fuller and Mike Richardson filed the lawsuit against Renaissance Marketing Corporation, the licensing agent, and Julia Meyer, who owns the rights to the "Super Bowl Shuffle."
The former Bears players contend through the lawsuit that the defendants do not have permission to commercially exploit their identities, images, names, likenesses, voices and performances from the "Super Bowl Shuffle."
"The lawsuit provides that an important, and stated, objective of the 'Super Bowl Shuffle' when it was produced in 1985 was to give back to Chicago's neediest families," said Walid J. Tamari, the plaintiff's attorney. "As the complaint states, among other things, the plaintiffs seek that a constructive trust be established for charitable purposes that they select in order to continue the Super Bowl Shuffle's charitable objective."
The suit contends that when Gault was approached in 1985 by Richard Meyer, the president of Red Label Records, about making the video, an important objective of the project was to raise money to give to Chicago's neediest families. In fact, in part of Walter Payton's rap in the song, the late Hall of Fame running backs says, "We're not doing this because we're greedy. The Bears are doing it to feed the needy."
After the song was released and became an instant hit, Dick Meyer clashed with Illinois lawmakers on what percentage of the proceeds from the song would go to charity. Meyer eventually registered the project as a charitable endeavor under Illinois state law and gave close to $300,000 (roughly 50 percent of the profits) to the Chicago Community Trust.
Former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary has been critical about just how much of the profits went to charity. When the topic of the "Super Bowl Shuffle" feeding the poor came up during an ESPN interview with former Bears coach Mike Ditka in 2010, Singletary replied, "Don't even take me there because it didn't quite work that way. It fed the rich."
According to the lawsuit, Red Label assigned its interest in the "Super Bowl Shuffle" to Meyer in 1986, but the plaintiffs contend that the label needed a majority of the players' consent -- which they claim it did not have -- to make such a move. After Meyer died in 1992, the interest in the "Shuffle" went to his wife, Julia. The plaintiffs contend in the lawsuit that they just recently discovered that Red Label had signed over its interest in the video to Richard Meyer, which they contend was a breach of contract.
Meyer has taken legal action in the past to protect the "Shuffle" from unauthorized use. She filed a federal lawsuit against Viacom in 2010 for using the video on MTV and VHI without her permission.
The "Super Bowl Shuffle" became a phenomenon when it was released late in the 1985 season, earning a gold record, a platinum video and a Grammy nomination.