(CN) – Major League Baseball is asking a federal judge in Manhattan to dismiss a class action filed by five fans who claim their fantasy baseball scores were harmed by the Houston Astros’ use of technology to steal signs.
The plaintiffs, who participated in fantasy baseball with DraftKings, allege fraud as well as negligence and deceptive trade practices by defendants Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, the Astros and Boston Red Sox. They assert that MLB knew about the cheating practices and failed to take action.
In a motion to dismiss filed Friday, MLB contends that attempts at cheating are a part of sports and fans are aware of it. The league referred to a 2010 dismissal of a similar lawsuit by football fans pertaining to the “Spygate” scandal involving the New England Patriots. In that case, the Third Circuit found that sports fans cannot claim they don’t know “that players often commit intentional rule infractions in order to obtain an advantage over the course of the game.”
“Plaintiffs also do not and cannot allege that there was anything inaccurate about the player performance statistics on which the outcome of their contests depended,” the motion states. “Plaintiffs got exactly what they bargained for: contests determined by baseball players’ actual performance on the field, whatever the contributing factors, predictable or unpredictable, may have been (skill, luck, matchups, injuries, weather, umpiring, or, perhaps, rules violations).” (Parentheses in original.)
MLB says the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York is “largely devoted to blatantly misleading allegations based on selectively quoted, out-of-context statements by MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr.”
Last month, Manfred released an official report confirming the Astros used live television feeds to steal signs flashed by opposing teams’ catchers during the 2017 and 2018 seasons to determine what type of pitch would be thrown.
The league fined the team $5 million, suspended the team’s manager and general manager for a year and stripped the Astros of its top two drafts picks for the next two years. After the league's suspensions, the Astros fired their manager and general manager.
The plaintiffs in the case, led by Kristopher Olson, claim that despite MLB’s wholehearted support of DraftKings and its fantasy sports competitions, the league was hiding the fact that the baseball games themselves were anything but fair.
“Throughout this period, MLB was well aware that its member teams were engaging in corrupt and fraudulent conduct that rendered player performance statistics dishonest and undermined the validity of its fan wagers on DraftKings’ fantasy baseball contests,” the complaint states.
But MLB argued in Friday’s filing that “not one plaintiff claims to have lost any fantasy baseball contest as a result of sign-stealing or otherwise.” In addition, the league says the lawsuit fails to prove any fraud or deception.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, a Bill Clinton appointee, is overseeing the case and will rule on the motion to dismiss.
In addition to the fantasy baseball lawsuit, an Astros fan filed a separate class action against the team alleging it overcharged him for season tickets for the 2017 through 2020 seasons in light of the sign-stealing scandal.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.