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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NFL: Players sue league over investments

Seven present and former professional football players sued the NFL and the NFL Players Association, saying the organizations recommended unfit financial advisers and caused them to lose $20 million.

The NFL and the union approved the services of Kirk Wright and Nelson Keith Bond, heads of the bankrupt hedge fund International Management Associates, without doing background checks, the players said in a June 23 federal court suit in Atlanta. Wright was arrested in May on mail fraud charges.

"Wright should not have been approved for registration in the program," athletes including former Pro Bowl players Steve Atwater and Blaine Bishop claimed. "Prior to and during Wright's and Bond's registration, both individuals had numerous state and federal tax liens and judgments against them."

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said IMA raised as much as $185 million from about 500 investors before filing for bankruptcy in 2005. The suit asked reimbursement for losses and better monitoring of investment managers, players' lawyer Marlon Kimpson said.

"We want to make these players whole, but the lawsuit is aimed at getting the NFL and the players' association to reform the program," Kimpson said in an interview.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mailed statement the claims are unfounded.

Atwater is a former safety with Denver and the New York Jets. Bishop, also a retired safety, was with Tennessee and Philadelphia. The other plaintiffs are former players Marco Coleman, Ray Crockett, Clyde Simmons and Al Smith and current New York Giant Carlos Emmons.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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