Marvin Harrison Jr.  [608x342]
Marvin Harrison Jr. [608x342] (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

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Editor's note: This story was first published on May 11. 

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's been several weeks since the Arizona Cardinals drafted wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. with the No. 4 pick, and fans still cannot buy Harrison's jersey or play with him in the video game Madden.

Why? Harrison, son of Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison, has not signed the NFL Players Association group licensing agreement (GLA), which allows partnering companies such as Nike and EA Sports to use a player's name, image and likeness. For most players, signing the GLA is a formality, typically inked at the NFL combine.

The GLA not only allows the NFLPA to market its players, but it also helps every player who signs to earn additional income.

As of May 18, Harrison also is facing a lawsuit from Fanatics over an alleged breach of contract related to a deal the merchandising company said he signed with it in 2023. 

Here's a breakdown of the licensing agreement that has impacted the early days of Harrison's NFL career.

What is the group licensing agreement and why hasn't Harrison signed?

It's an agreement between a player and the NFLPA for the players association to have exclusive rights to market a player's name, image, likeness, signature and voice. It's how players end up in Madden and have jerseys and memorabilia sold by retailers. The NFLPA developed the GLA in 1972 to protect the marketing rights of its players as a group and ensure players receive a share of the revenue generated.

If a company wants to use six or more players in a promotion, it has to have a GLA with the NFLPA. If a company has a GLA with the NFLPA, it must pay each of those players a cut of the revenue. There are exceptions. There can be exclusive promotions with six or more players in which those players get a larger cut.

High-profile players can earn upward of six figures based on how much they generate for products and companies linked to the GLA.

Last year, the baseline for players' royalty payments was about $30,000, but the expectation is that will increase every season. According to the Department of Labor, there were 2,125 active players in 2023.

The NFLPA has agreements with 85 different companies, including 2K, Electronic Arts, 500 LEVEL, Hallmark, Fathead, Beast Mode, Rock 'Em socks, Under Armour, Homage, Party City, Fanatics, Strideline and The Original Retro Brand.

A source told ESPN that Harrison is trying to use not signing the GLA as leverage to renegotiate his Fanatics deal for more money.

What is the Fanatics lawsuit and what other agreements does Harrison have in place?

Harrison has three known deals: A shoe and apparel deal with New Balance, an endorsement deal with Head and Shoulders, and a memorabilia deal with Fanatics, which a source told ESPN that Harrison signed before his final year at Ohio State and is worth at least $1 million.

That Fanatics deal is the subject of the lawsuit filed Saturday. In the suit, Fanatics claims that after recognizing Harrison's "potentially bright future and the limitations of the promotion and license agreement," it approached Harrison again about a long-term "more substantive" deal beyond an initial one he signed in March 2023. The two sides began talking about a new deal in April 2023 that was "heavily negotiated," according to the suit. Harrison, who does not have an agent, was represented by his father, Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison Sr. The two sides agreed to a binding term sheet on May 16, 2023, and it was finalized two days later, according to the suit. Fanatics said Marvin Harrison Jr. has refused to fulfill his obligations to the deal while he also "publicly asserted" that the contract does not exist.

Terms of the agreement were redacted; however, the suit states that the payment to Harrison was "significant." Fanatics, which hopes the suit will compel Harrison to fulfill his obligations, requested a jury trial and estimated damages to be in the "millions of dollars."

Harrison also is selling memorabilia on his website, The Official Harrison Collection. A Harrison Buckeyes jersey costs $80, but no Cardinals merchandise is being sold on the site.

During his introductory news conference in Arizona, Harrison was asked if he has a timeline to sign the GLA and hire an agent.

"I'll continue to talk to my team, and we'll do what's best for me moving forward," Harrison said. "We'll just take it one day at a time. I just got drafted, so I'm trying to enjoy the moment and be happy while I can at the moment."

How does the NCAA NIL factor into all this?

Directly, not much, if at all. The GLA is essentially NIL for professionals. However, indirectly, collegiate NIL is part of the reason Harrison is trying to renegotiate his deal with Fanatics. Having NIL in place and legalized gave Fanatics the ability to discuss an agreement with Harrison while he was still in college and eventually have him sign a post-college deal, which sources told ESPN happened before his last season at Ohio State.

If Harrison had signed a similar deal before NIL, it would've been a violation of NCAA rules. However, it would have been more likely that Harrison signed any type of deal after declaring for the NFL draft, which, after the season he had in 2023, would've likely been valued higher and brought him more money.