What’s more American than football? Apple pie, maybe. The Second Amendment. Lawsuits. Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been myriad reasons for fans, owners, and players to lawyer up and file suit. Many of them, like the Player’s Union’s attempt to get the NFL to pay attention to head injuries, are legitimate. That’s not what we’re focused on here — today we’ll be looking at the head scratchers, the “no way that’s real” stories, and the pure, unadulterated dumb that fuels them.
No, the Buffalo Jills — the cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills –recent suit against the team doesn’t qualify. That’s one of the serious ones. Any time an employee for a billion dollar industry is taking home a reported “$105 to $1,800 for an entire season on the job,” the silliness stops. So don’t look for that one in the list below.
But, rest assured, there’s much more frivolity when it comes to legal action and the National Football League. From text messages to halftime shows, there’s apparently no perceived infraction too slight when it comes to the NFL and their product. Get prepared and read on to see the seven most absurd lawsuits in NFL history.
5. Buffalo Bills sued for sending too many texts
The background is as follows: in 2012, fans of the Buffalo Bills, who have plenty of reasons to be disenfranchised with the team, signed up for a program that would have the Bills organization send them text messages. This was great for guys like Jerry Wojcik, a Bills supporter who had moved away from Buffalo but wanted to keep in touch with his team. According to the terms of service, the Bills would send five texts a week — one could assume one text every day of the normal working week.
But then, in a nefarious twist, Wojcik was the recipient of six texts over one week. Then, a couple weeks later, the Bills blew up his inbox with seven separate tweets. In response, Wojcik filed a class action lawsuit, claiming that the Bills had violated their own terms of service — and he won.
Ultimately, the Bills are going to fork over almost $3 million in cash to the wronged textees in the form of $57.50, $60, and $75 dollar debit cards, which are only good for the Bills online store and the Bills Stadium. Wojcik will get an additional $5,000 for being the class representative. One silver lining? “A motion that accompanied the settlement order argued that the offer of Bills debit cards was an appropriate form of settlement because the class consists of Bills fans.” Since no one should ever be allowed to forget that they root for the Bills.
4. M.I.A sued by the NFL — years after the Fact
You might remember Madonna’s 2012 halftime performance. You might not, though — it wasn’t very notable for anyone involved with the exception of Maya Arulpragasam, better known by her stage name of M.I.A. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, she raised a middle finger to the camera in the middle of the song “Give Me All Your Luvin,” a Madonna single which features a rapped verse by M.I.A. You can see the finger in question in the YouTube video below.
So what makes this lawsuit so ridiculous? For one thing, the FCC, arbiters of all that is just and morally A-OK on network television, didn’t file a complaint over the incident. For another, there’s the fact that she’s getting sued for $16 million, the NFL’s approximation of how much that airtime was worth, and the fact that the NFL is willing to settle for “50 percent of gross earnings over $500,000 in any year and 100 percent of gross earnings over $5,ooo,ooo in any year” in addition to the $16 million suit.
THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT ME TO SIGN , THAT IVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR 2 YEARS ON TOP OF 16 MILLION pic.twitter.com/PMurD3oVFL
— M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) March 17, 2014
3. Fan sues over the availability of playoff tickets
Citing economic discrimination, a 49ers fan filed a $50 million lawsuit against the NFL over the Seattle Seahawks’ limitations on who could purchase NFC title tickets for the January game between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks were able to contain credit card orders for playoff tickets to ones that matched billing addresses from local states — a list that did not include Nevada, where Niners fan John E. Williams resides. According to ESPN, the lawsuit alleges that the maneuver was “part of an effort to keep 49ers fans away and further promote the Seattle Seahawks‘ boisterous home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field.”
The sales, which were limited to Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington, “is a violation of the Federal Consumer Fraud Act and/or common law,” or so says the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this April. “I live in Las Vegas, but I’m originally from San Francisco. I’ve seen John Brodie back in the day and Joe Montana,” said Williams. “I really wanted to go up there to see the Niners,” Williams said. “I think the tickets should be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, not based on who they want in the crowd.”
Seattle refers to its fans as the 12th man on merchandise and in popular culture, and has a reputation for creating a raucous atmosphere that directly contributes to the Seahawks’ home-field advantage. Most famously, they created so much noise and energy after Marshawn Lynch broke a tackle and ran for a playoffs-clinching touchdown in 2011 that it registered on local seismographs as an earthquake. Footage of the BeastQuake (Lynch’s nickname is “Beast Mode”) can be seen below.
2. The NFL is sued for scalping Super Bowl tickets, an NFL Game
When the NFL held the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, there were many documented problems shutting fans from New York, where the majority of the festivities and housing was located. That wasn’t a problem, at least not one that demanded litigation. Ticket sales, on the other hand? Yeah, those were worth suing over. (No report yet on whether Denver fans are in talks to sue the league over the outcome of that Super Bowl.)
After one pair of New Jersey fans had to pay over $2,000 a piece for Super Bowl tickets, they sued the league for violating Jersey’s anti-scalping law — scalping is the practice of reselling tickets to an event. Since the NFL only sells 1 percent of Super Bowl tickets directly to the public, the suit alleges that fans “are forced into a secondary market for the tickets where they must pay substantially more than the ticket’s face value to attend one of the most popular and iconic sporting events of the year,” per the Denver Post.
The Post also reported that the face value of a pair of Super Bowl tickets, according to the fans who won the lottery and were given the option of buying them directly, was $1,700. It also noted that, “New Jersey law prohibits withholding more than 5 percent of tickets to an event from sale to the public.”
1. The NFL sues New Jersey over the legality of gambling
While commentators love to talk about the gambling odds for sports events, the leagues themselves take a significantly harsher look at the ramifications of betting and pro sports. In 2012, along with the NCAA, NHL, NBA, and MLB, the National Football League filed a joint suit against the state in order to maintain the sanctity of the game, even as outlets like ESPN and the league’s fan websites routinely refer to the betting lines of games in their columns and stories.
“The NCAA and the professional leagues have taken the stance that New Jersey’s contemplated sports betting scheme directly violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA),” Forbes wrote at the time of the suit. “A federal law enacted in 1992 that makes it illegal for a governmental entity or person to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize any type of gambling based on one or more amateur or professional competitive games or on how the athletes perform in those games.”