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Legends Football League gets sued by former players

Promotional photo of the new LFL uniforms
Promotional photo of the new LFL uniforms

The Legends Football League, previously known as the Lingerie Football League, has been sued by a group offormer players in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The class action lawsuit claims that the League misclassifies its football players as independent contractors to avoid paying them wages and overtime.

The LFL is a women’s full-contact indoor football league. It got its start as a Super Bowl halftime show known as the Lingerie Bowl. Much of what brought the Lingerie Bowl popularity was then transformed in 2009 into a full-fledged league with 10 teams in different cities. Prior to the 2013 season, it was then re-branded into the Legends Football League for marketing purposes.

In the first few seasons, players were paid based off of ticket sales. Prior to the 2011 season, despite the LFL’s supposed success and growth, the commissioner, Mitchell Mortaza, decided to no longer pay its players. Even though he made this change to their income, the players’ responsibilities never changed. They were still expected to remain in peak physical condition, participate in every practice, appear at all promotional events and of course play in every game.

"There were entire seasons where plaintiff and members of the plaintiff class received no income despite playing in the football league," the 20-page complaint states.

And so, the LFL has become another semi-professional football league—something you do for the love of the game and nothing else.

The big difference compared to other similar leagues is that these girls play in arenas around the United States and not in parks and high school football fields. Their games are broadcast on televisions around the globe and their fans come from every nation. Someone is making real money from these girls giving it their all out on the field.

That person is none other than Mortaza.

Prior to the 2013 season, he abolished the League’s insurance policy, which covered players’ medical expenses when injured during practice or games. Players were instead required to provide proof of their own insurance-- as wellas pay an unknown amount to have the opportunity and privilege to play.

Okay, so lately, the gear has changed for the better, but just slightly-- up until last year, players wore modified bras, panties, garters, a hockey helmet and foam shoulder pads. Since Mortaza adopted the Legends Football League brand, he replaced lingerie with “performance wear” and slightly more protective shoulder pads.

With this less-than-protective gear, no pay and no protective insurance policy, players are in a very precarious position. This is where plaintiff, Melissa Margulies comes in. She is a former member of the Los Angeles Temptation and just wants all the girls to be protected and treated fairly. She told that this class action lawsuit against the League is being filled to make sure that all LFL players get paid fairly and in accordance with the law.

Margulies was an outstanding player with the Temptation and was a force to watch out for on the field. She fought back from an extensive knee surgery in 2012 to play her 2013 season. But, in the last game of that season, she was injured again—this time from a blow to her helmet-protected face.

“After breaking my cheek and orbital bone, the league failed to pay for the full costs my medical treatment. It was then that I realized that the LFL was exploiting the players and not living up to their legal obligations. It took some time for me to learn about what I could do to stop this exploitation and fight for the wages the players are rightfully owed,” Margulies told the examiner in a quick interview via email.

According to the class action suit, the league requires players to sign on as independent contractors, but the contract requires players to sign over their publicity and promotional rights, and attend all practices and promotional events. And if players do not show up at practices, games or events they may be fined or removed from the team.

"The designation of the football players as independent contractors was and is clearly improper because the players lack the requisite control and discretion over their job responsibilities and duties to deserve treatment as independent contractors," the complaint states.

There are several high profile players of the LFL who are assisting with the lawsuit, although only Margulies and Robin Johnson, former quarterback of the Las Vegas Sin, are named as plaintiffs at this time.

Anyone else who played in the LFL is welcome to participate in the lawsuit and should contact Margulies or her attorneys to learn about their options and what they can do to assist.

Alleging violations of labor laws, Margulies seeks general and compensatory damages, restitution, waiting time penalties, interest and costs.

She is represented by Michael S. Morrison with Alexander

Krakow + Glick of Santa Monica.

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