"Longest Yard" Producer Sues NFL, Claims League Stole Idea of Criminal Football Players
MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- An executive producer of the football movie The Longest Yard filed suit against the National Football League in federal court in Minneapolis on Wednesday, charging the league with copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property.
The movie, which starred Burt Reynolds in the original 1974 production and Adam Sandler in a 2005 remake, depicts a football game played between prison convicts and their guards. Now, Albert S. Ruddy, who produced both versions of the movie as well as the Academy Award-winning films Million Dollar Baby and The Godfather, claims his idea has been stolen by the NFL without receiving proper recognition.
“The latest actions of the National Football League and its players have seriously undermined the economic potential of the Longest Yard franchise,” Ruddy told reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse building. “Have you looked at the sports page lately? One player arrested for public urination, another shot coming out of a bar, a coach picked up for drunk driving. And that was just in this morning’s paper! Nine members of the Cincinnati Bengals arrested in the last nine months. Nine! That’s almost a starting lineup right there.
"Just look at Tank Williams of the Chicago Bears. It's Super Bowl week and he's getting more questions about the arsenal that police found in his house than about how he thinks his team will do against the Colts on Sunday. I don't think we could have had Tank in our movie. The guys in the prison yard would have been afraid of him.
"The idea of a football team comprised of convicts is a direct theft of the original premise of our movie, and to date the NFL has made no acknowledgement of this fact. This isn't just about getting Burt Reynolds more residuals. It's a matter of justice!"
Ruddy contends the rampant lawlessness in pro football has made it more difficult for his films to remain profitable. “Why would anyone want to pay money to own or rent The Longest Yard when they can see the same thing playing out on their home TV for free every Sunday? I don’t have a problem with cons or ex-cons playing football, by the way. It keeps them off the streets for at least a little while, after all. But I do have a problem when it undermines my bottom line. Maybe you can’t change the way football players behave, but a little monetary compensation would help to ease the burden.”
League lawyer Jack Greenpalm said Ruddy’s accusations were baseless and without merit. “This is real life, not some Hollywood script treatment,” Greenpalm said. “This is hardly the first time athletes have been gotten themselves into trouble. Boys will be boys, you know. If you look at FBI statistics over the last three decades, you’ll probably find NFL players mentioned long before his movie was made. If anything, he stole the idea from us.” Greenpalm refused to speculate further on the possibility of a countersuit.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was unavailable for comment regarding Ruddy’s lawsuit. A league spokesman said Goodell was en route to Washington, D.C. to testify before a Congressional committee investigating drug use in professional sports.