DALLAS (CN) – Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s company sued the National Football League, claiming it threatened to fine and suspend several players if they participate in a fantasy football fan expo.
The Fan Expo LLC sued the NFL in Dallas County Court on Tuesday, over The National Fantasy Football Convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas scheduled for this month.
Romo is not a party to the suit. His company claims the league supported the event at first, but then told players and league employees they could not participate because the venue violates the league’s gambling policy.
Fan Expo told the NFL that “the event was not taking place at a casino, that no gambling would take place at the event, and that children were allowed and encouraged to attend,” but to no avail.
“(J)ust weeks before the inaugural event, the NFL placed a series of intimidating phone calls to players, their families, their agents, and the NFL Players Association (‘NFLPA’), threatening that the players would be fined and potentially suspended from the NFL if they participated in the event,” the lawsuit states.
“Through these actions, the NFL tortiously interfered with the NFFC’s contracts with NFL players and NFL media personnel, as well as with the fans and participants who had planned and paid for tickets, travel, and hotel accommodations in order to attend the event. As a direct result of the malicious and groundless threats made by the NFL, numerous players and media personnel withdrew their participation from the convention, and it became impossible for the NFFC to execute the July 2015 event.”
Fan Expo attributed the NFL’s “abrupt change of heart” to the success of the convention.
“On June 3, 2015, less than five weeks before the event was to take place, the NFL began to threaten and harass players who had committed to appear at the event,” the complaint states. “By waiting until the last minute to take this position, the NFL ensured they could inflict the maximum negative impact on the NFFC.”
Fan Expo accuses the league of hypocritical, selective enforcement of its gambling policy, which it “flagrantly and systematically” violates when it stands to “get a piece of the pie” financially.
“On May 26, 2015, the Detroit Lions announced an official partnership with the MGM Grand Detroit,” the complaint states. “The MGM Grand Detroit is a casino-hotel with slot machines, gaming tables, and poker rooms. In fact, the MGM plans to build an ‘MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club’ on site at Ford Field. On October 28, 2014, on their official NFL website, the reigning Super Bowl Champions, The New England Patriots, proudly posted a video of their free safety, Devin McCourty, hosting a casino night. NFL player Rob Gronkowski is hosting a party cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on February 19-22, 2016. The four-day party takes place on Norwegian Cruise Line, where Gronkowski’s fans and attendees can take full advantage of Norwegian’s famed ‘Casinos at Sea.'”
Fan Expo’s attorney, Julie Pettit in Dallas, confirmed on Tuesday that Romo is a part-owner of Fan Expo. Romo will not comment on the lawsuit, she told The Dallas Morning News.
The Fan Expo rebuts the NFL’s reasoning, saying the facility is not licensed for gambling and is not part of a casino.
More than 100 players were to attend, including Romo, Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Maclin, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Antonio Brown.
League officials said they are reviewing the lawsuit.
Romo expressed his frustration with the cancellation during a June appearance on ESPN’s “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd.
“It’s like when you’re in high school and you don’t get invited to the party; it makes you feel bad,” he said. “If they really wanted to just be a part of it, all they had to do was call and ask. It would have been a lot easier than going about the process the way they did.”
Romo said at the time that the NFL could have called him or the convention organizers instead of “almost scaring” the players who were to attend.
“That just seems silly to me. We could have been far more mature about this,” he said. “That makes you think it was just about money, and that’s disappointing.”
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