The NFL “Sunday Ticket” Lawsuit: A Deep Dive into the Legal Battle

As the jury in the class-action lawsuit brought by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers against the NFL prepares to deliberate, tensions are running high. The trial wrapped up with final arguments from both sides, with U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez set to give final instructions to the jury on Wednesday morning. The NFL is pushing for a judgment in their favor, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to provide enough evidence to support their case.

During the trial, the NFL called on Stanford economics professor B. Douglas Bernheim to bolster their argument that selling out-of-market games to DirecTV and Google YouTube TV benefits fans and promotes competitive balance in the league. On the other side, Harvard professor Einer Elhauge argued that the restraints imposed by the league to make “Sunday Ticket” a premium package do not contribute to competitive balance. He also disputed the claim that the revenue generated from “Sunday Ticket” would not significantly impact team budgets.

The Class Action Lawsuit

Covering 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses, the class action lawsuit accuses the NFL of breaking antitrust laws by inflating the price of its out-of-market games package. The plaintiffs argue that the league’s decision to offer “Sunday Ticket” exclusively through a satellite provider restricts competition. The NFL, however, asserts that its antitrust exemption for broadcasting allows them to sell the package as they see fit.

If the jury finds the NFL liable, the league could face damages of up to $7 billion, with the possibility of triple damages in antitrust cases bringing the total to $21 billion. The lawsuit, originally filed by a sports bar in San Francisco in 2015, was reinstated by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019. The outcome of the trial is expected to be appealed, setting the stage for a potential legal battle in higher courts.

As the legal battle over the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package unfolds, the future of how out-of-market games are distributed hangs in the balance. The outcome of the trial will not only have significant financial implications for the league but could also shape the landscape of sports broadcasting and antitrust regulations. Stay tuned as the jury prepares to deliver its verdict in this high-stakes legal showdown.


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