CHICAGO (CN) - Six members of the 1985 Chicago Bears who participated in the "Super Bowl Shuffle" claim in court that the widow of a record label's president is illegally profiting off their rap video, which they created to "give back to Chicago's neediest families."
Richard Dent, Steve Fuller, Willie Gault, Jim McMahon, Mike Richardson and Otis Wilson -- all members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears -- sued Renaissance Marketing Corporation and Julia Meyer in Cook County Court.
Three months before the Bears' win in Super Bowl XX, 24 Bears recorded a rap song with lyrics related to each player. It instantly became a hit, peaking at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In the fall of 1985, Richard Meyers, Julia's husband and then-president of Red Label Records, approached Gault about creating a music video "to reflect on the success and popularity of the 1985 Chicago Bears," the lawsuit states.
Gault recruited the co-plaintiffs to appear in the "Super Bowl Shuffle," a project meant to "give back to Chicago's neediest families," according to the lawsuit. One of the lines, sung by Walter Payton, says: "Now we're not doing this because we're greedy, the bears are doing it to feed the needy."
More than $300,000 in profits from the song were reportedly donated
to the Chicago Community Trust.
Six of the 10 players who performed vocal or instrumental solos in the rap video -- dubbed the "Shufflin' Crew" -- say the royalty agreement required Red Label to get their majority consent before it could assign any rights to a third party.
But in 1986, the label allegedly assigned its interest in the song to Richard Meyer, who passed away in 1992.
"The Shufflin' Crew was not notified and had no reason to know or believe that the September 15, 1986 purported assignment occurred," the former players claim.
Since that time, Julia Meyer and Renaissance Marketing -- the agency she'd created to license the "Super Bowl Shuffle" -- have illegally profited off the video, the ex-Bears claim.
"The Shufflin' Crew never granted defendants permission to use or otherwise benefit in any manner from the Shufflin' Crew members' identities, images, names, photographs, likenesses, voices and performances in the Super Bowl Shuffle at any time, including after September 15, 1986," the former athletes say.
Julia Meyer and Renaissance Marketing told the Shufflin' Crew in 2013 that Red Label Records had dissolved, though the ex-players say the dissolution took place in 1987.
They say the defendants refuse to disclose how much money they've made off the song and video.
The former players seek an order establishing a constructive trust to continue their charitable intentions, invalidating the purported assignment of rights from Red Label to Richard Meyer, and barring the defendants' use of their names and images.
They also seek damages for conversion and unjust enrichment.
The Shufflin' Crew is represented by Walid Tamari, who did not return a request for comment.