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UFL players, staffers sue founder for pay, damages

Eric Olson, AP Sports Writer

A group of 78 former United Football League players and team staff members are suing United Football League founder and chairman William Hambrecht for millions of dollars.

The UFL in October cancelled the second half of its 2012 season because of financial problems. The 78 plaintiffs say they haven't received any of the pay agreed upon in their contracts or in signed "personal guarantees" by Hambrecht; all 78 were associated with the Omaha (Neb.) Nighthawks and Las Vegas Locomotives. The league also had teams in Norfolk, Va., and Sacramento, Calif.

Attorney Andrew Rempfer, who filed the lawsuit in Las Vegas, said Tuesday the group is seeking punitive damages and attorney fees in addition to back pay.

"That'll put Bill on the hook for at least seven figures, and probably $2-$3 million," Rempfer said, referring to Hambrecht.

Phone and email messages were left with an attorney representing Hambrecht.

Former Virginia Destroyers head coach Marty Schottenheimer last fall filed a $2.3 million lawsuit against Hambrecht for unpaid wages and breach of contract. Hambrecht also faces a million-dollar lawsuit filed in January by six former Locomotives assistant coaches.

Former Sacramento Mountain Lions coach Dennis Green filed a $1.5 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Sacramento owner Paul Pelosi last summer.

The UFL debuted in 2009, advertising itself as the best professional football outside the NFL.

The UFL never realized its hope of landing a revenue-producing television contract or gaining NFL financial backing to serve as a developmental league. Still, undrafted and veteran free agents landed on UFL rosters, and a handful achieved their goal of getting noticed by NFL teams.

The Omaha franchise attracted sellout crowds of 24,000 for its home games in 2010, but other teams drew less than half that, and financial problems mounted. The UFL left unpaid bills totaling in the millions of dollars in its franchise cities.

About 30 of the plaintiffs have NFL experience, including former Miami linebacker Morlon Greenwood, former Kansas City receiver Samie Parker and former Oakland safety Stuart Schweigert.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs received signed "personal guarantees" from Hambrecht in mid-October to continue playing and working for the Locomotives and Nighthawks even though they hadn't been paid. The standard contract was supposed to pay players about $3,500 a game.

The lawsuit said Hambrecht paid the plaintiffs a one-time sum of $1,000 apiece for their trouble — the money was not to be credited to the amount he owed them — and he agreed to pay attorney fees and other costs if they had to take legal action to secure payment.

Hambrecht failed to meet at least four payment deadlines, prompting the lawsuit that was filed March 1.

The league ceased operations Oct. 20 after each team played four of eight scheduled games. In a statement announcing the decision to cancel the balance of the season, the UFL cited an inability to pay workman's compensation insurance and said its priority was to pay coaches, players and staff.

The UFL, in the same statement, also said it planned to resume play sometime this spring.