NFL Hall of Fame Game Lawsuit

Due to the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH, the 22,375 fans who had paid for a ticket are seeking compensation for their troubles. A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of those fans alleges $5 million in damages, citing stadium and playing surface mismanagement, which is an understatement. The grounds crew did such a colossally bad job of problem solving that every decision they made took things from bad to worse.

The field cover was not removed until 2:45 p.m., when it was supposed to be removed at 8 a.m. This lead to the paint not drying quickly enough, which meant that, in order to speed up the drying process, the crew decided to heat the field. Except that the field is comprised of synthetic turf, and the little rubber pellets melted, congealing into a sticky tar-like substance. The paint itself was the improper type as well. If this wasn’t enough, they tried using what was essentially paint thinner to remedy their mistake. However, it was made of chemicals that could burn or severely irritate the skin. Telling NFL players to avoid falling to the ground doesn’t exactly work, so the game was cancelled.

It’s almost as if thousands of fields hadn’t been painted for tens of thousands of NFL games in the past few decades. In addition to the field troubles, the lawsuit insinuates that the NFL never told fans of the cancellation, thereby allowing them to continue to purchase concessions in the run-up to a game that was never going to be played. Due to this extreme incompetency, the NFL will, in way or another, have to compensate the fans for their troubles.

Details of NFL Lawsuit

The plaintiffs are being represented by Michael Avenatti, a high-profile Southern California attorney who has handled numerous large dollar amount cases. The original $5 million lawsuit was filed last week, but today Avenatti extended a settlement offer of $450 per fan, with no lawyer fees. Which means that the NFL can wash its hands of this case within a matter of hours if they agree to the terms of the deal.

The total payout would equal approximately $10 million, but that is about half of what it could be if the lawsuit were to carry on to trial. Usually, the highest price to pay in a lawsuit is not the settlement itself, but the attorney fees. Avenatti alleges that the NFL has already spent $20 million defending themselves in the Super Bowl XLV ticket litigation. (For those who don’t recall, this was the case involving hundreds of displaced ticket-holders, because the temporary seats were not yet ready for them to use. Avenatti also represents the plaintiffs in this case. Seven of these fans were awarded a total of $76,000 for the grievance last year.)

It clearly takes a lot in order to win litigation against a professional sports franchise. All of them have a team of lawyers that usually kills the motivation many people might have to file a suit. Either that or they settle out of court, because none of them want any bad publicity. The NFL is clearly not immune – and is probably somewhat used to – from lawsuits, nor is any other team in any other sport.

Has a sports league or team faced a lawsuit before?

Literally all the time. That’s why a roughly 1,000-page novel is printed on the back of your ticket stub; it protects the club from being sued if something happens to you while at the game. Perhaps the most prudent example of this was Tonya Carpenter, who suffered a horrifying injury after being hit by a piece of broken bat that flew into the stands at a Boston Red Sox game. She could not sue for her injuries, but lawsuits were filed to make the ballparks safer for fans, which is why we now have netting that extends to the ends of the dugout.

But here is just a short, not-in-chronological order list of lawsuits filed by fans against teams from this year alone:

  • Fans of the New England Patriots filed a lawsuit against the NFL for the lost draft pick which resulted from “Deflategate punishment.”
  • Fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves sued the team after the institution of a new ticket policy which did away with paper tickets, and required fans to buy/sell/resell their tickets through an app. The app charged fees for seller and buyer, and fans say the practice is unlawful.
  • St. Louis residents sued the now Los Angeles Rams for what they claim was “deception, fraud and false promises” when they purchased tickets and merchandise for a team that left them in the dust. The plaintiffs say the team violated the Merchandising Practice Act.

This is just a sampling. Some don’t have merit, but many do. No one wants to feel swindled, which is what all those who purchased to the Hall of Fame Game believe happened. We’ll update if the NFL decides to settle, which, for a corporation that hates bad publicity, it may very well do.

*Featured image from Flickr user hyku, via Wiki Commons

B. Clausen

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Brian Clausen is the U.S. news reporter for Dopplr. Before joining the team, he created digital content for large companies.

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