Game changer

The aging players, most of whom had little or no name recognition, thought that the licensing agency was worthless and they would see little, if any, of the settlement money. The lawyers, meanwhile, were to receive most of $8 million set aside to cover legal fees and the establishment of a trust for players. Stein and the original plaintiffs were livid. They told Hausfeld they wouldn't support the deal. "He couldn't convince us it was a fair deal, so he got other people," said Pastorini, who filed a malpractice suit against Hausfeld that was later dismissed. "He basically dropped us and abandoned us." Hausfeld insists that he consulted with Stein and the original plaintiffs. He says he believed that it was the best deal he could get and that it set up a vehicle for them to get paid. "It was clearly a difference of opinion as to what they considered successful and what we felt was successful and achievable," he says.

Hausfeld also went after the NFL players' union, another act that led to recriminations. In June 2012, he sent a letter to the AFL-CIO "on behalf of the undersigned," calling on the umbrella federation for U.S. unions to "expel the NFL Players Association ... for its moral failures." The "undersigned" included Bethea, but when the letter became public, the Hall of Famer said he was shocked; Hausfeld had never obtained his permission. "I don't know how he got my name to be part of that letter. I was never going along with this guy," says Bethea, who once served as the Oilers' player representative. He and Dryer, whom Bethea was told also supported the request to the AFL-CIO, wrote open letters challenging Hausfeld. Bethea asked for a retraction and an apology. Dryer wrote: "Knowing you as I do now, it is no surprise to me that you would misrepresent facts and the truth in order to manipulate a specific outcome."

Hausfeld says he was "sure" he had obtained the players' permission through DeLamielleure, whom he believed spoke for them. DeLamielleure said no such conversation occurred. "He's bulls---ting," DeLamielleure says. "I never told those guys to put Elvin's name on there. Never, that son of a bitch! Why would anybody ask me to put Elvin's name? This guy is unreal."

"I'm still waiting for my retraction," Bethea says. He says he became convinced that Hausfeld was trying to become the de facto representative of the retired players.

"Everything he was selling was snake oil," Bethea says. "He was going to cure everything."

In November 2012, the disagreements exploded at a status conference in Minneapolis before the magistrate judge overseeing the lawsuit. Hausfeld invited players he thought supported the settlement. That included DeLamielleure, who was still, tentatively, in Hausfeld's camp. Dryer, Bethea, Pastorini and the other original plaintiffs also showed up, with Stein and his colleague, Tom Ward. A pre-conference meeting, convened by Hausfeld for players who supported the deal, turned into a free-for-all. Ward burst in with Pastorini and lambasted Hausfeld, accusing him of holding "secret meetings." Players screamed at Ward. Mitchell, Hausfeld's paralegal, feared there might be a physical confrontation before order was restored.

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