Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's lawsuit against the NFL highlights one of the league's essential hypocrisies – the fact that, although it is dependent on interest from gamblers and gambling interests, the league keeps visible endorsement of gambling at arm's length.
In court filings, Romo's attorneys say the league "placed a series of intimidating phone calls to players, their families, their agents and the NFL Players Association," saying that they could be suspended or banned from the league if they participated in a fantasy football convention he was organizing in Las Vegas. Romo claims the league's action forced him to cancel the convention, scheduled for last July, but Dallas County District Judge Carl Ginsberg on Monday dismissed his claim of tortious interference.
Romo's attorneys say the NFL leaned on the conference because it wasn't making any money from an event featuring many of its players. The league says it pushed back against the event because of where it was being held – the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas. The meeting space is connected to the Venetian Hotel and Casino, and NFL policy bans players from "participating in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events (e.g., golf tournaments, trading card shows) that are held at or sponsored by casinos or other gambling-related establishments."
Romo's team contends that the convention center is not a part of a casino, that it isn't even licensed for gambling. Their suit points to other events, like the cruise New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski recently hosted on a ship that housed a casino, and a similar fantasy football conference hosted by New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The NFL, the suit claims, illegally interfered with the conference when it did things like call New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s mother to warn the superstar of the conference.
Monday's ruling leaves intact Romo's claim of breach of contract.
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"The only thing I'll say is that the NFL is gratified with the court's ruling, which was a careful analysis, and we believe it was the correct one," Thad Behrens, an attorney representing the NFL, said after the hearing, before he added that the league would be investigating Gronkowski's cruise as well.
Michael Hurst, an attorney representing Romo and Fan Expo, the group behind the conference, said he would appeal the ruling, something that Chad Ruback, a Dallas civil attorney, says has a good chance of succeeding.
"There is no doubt in my mind that, if this case goes south, there will be an appeal to the Dallas Court of Appeals. The court of appeals has a relatively high reversal rate on summary judgement, because it likes for cases to be heard by juries rather than judges," Ruback says.
Romo and his lawyers, who are seeking $10 million in damages, are currently fighting for the right to depose NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.