Court to hear fan lawsuit over Patriots’ filming
The NFL’s ‘Spygate’ is headed back to court.
The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is
scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit arising
from the New England Patriots’ secret videotaping of New York Jets
coaches in a game at Giants Stadium in 2007.
The suit was filed by a Jets season ticket holder who also is an
attorney in New Jersey, and it claims the Patriots’ actions
“violated the contractual expectations and rights of New York Jets
ticket-holders” who paid to watch a game played in compliance with
the league’s rules.
The Patriots were caught taping signals by Jets coaches, a
violation of league rules, during the opening game of the 2007
season. New England won 38-14 at Giants Stadium in East
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined Patriots head coach Bill
Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 for that incident, and
stripped New England of a first-round draft choice.
Carl Mayer’s lawsuit asserts that because other teams also found
illicit videotaping by the defendants, Jets ticketholders should be
compensated for all games played in Giants Stadium between the Jets
and Patriots since Belichick became head coach in 2000.
“What we’re arguing is that professional sports is a business
that has to respect the law just like any other business, and that
teams that participate can’t commit fraud on ticketholders,” Mayer
said Tuesday. “The Patriots had altered the rules of the game and
were playing with advance knowledge of opponents’ plays.”
Mayer and co-counsel Bruce Afran also will argue that the
Patriots violated federal racketeering laws as well as New Jersey’s
consumer protection laws by concealing material facts – the
existence of the videotaping – from paying customers.
The suit calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to
watch eight “fraudulent” games, they’re entitled to triple that
amount – or $184.8 million – in compensation under racketeering and
consumer fraud laws.
Mayer and Afran are appealing the dismissal of the case in March
2009 by U.S. District Judge Garrett Brown Jr. in Trenton. Shep
Goldfein, an attorney representing the NFL in the matter, referred
to Brown’s ruling in which the judge wrote that a ticket seller
only contracts to provide entry to a ticketholder “to view
whatever event transpires.”
An attorney representing the Patriots did not return a telephone
“People pay hundreds of dollars for tickets and expect a fair
game,” Afran said. “It’s not professional wrestling, where you
know it’s rigged.”