NFL Accused of Giving Charity ‘Hush Money’

     DALLAS (CN) – The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell paid $5,000 in “hush money” to a kids charity after insisting it move an event due to gambling and casino venue concerns, the charity claims.
     Strikes for Kids of Elk Grove, Calif., sued the National Football League in Dallas County Court on Tuesday. Goodell is not a party to the lawsuit.
     Strikes says the league forced it to change the venue for its Las Vegas All-Star Classic bowling event last year after the league expressed concern that it was taking place inside the Sunset Station Hotel & Casino.
     The event was to feature several NFL players bowling with over 100 kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada, according to the complaint. Strikes says it told the league the Strike Zone bowling alley was separated from the casino and people could enter it without passing the sportsbook or the casino floor.
     “Despite providing the requested clarification, the NFL claimed it would be against NFL rules and regulations to for NFL players to attend the charity event at the Strike Zone, and that Strikes needed to change the venue of the charity event,” the nine-page complaint states.
     Strikes founder Joseph Allen “informed [NFL employee Brook] Gardiner of the overwhelming cost difference and the amount of revenue that would be lost by moving the venue of the charity event, but Gardiner insisted that the charity event needed to be moved or no NFL player would be permitted to participate,” according to the lawsuit.
     Strikes says it had no option but to move the event to the NFL-approved Brooklyn Bowl, which was located in The Linq Hotel & Casino complex. (page 5)
     The charity claims the new venue only had 16 lanes compared to Strike Zone’s 72, forcing Strikes to shut down sales and give refunds to those who had already paid but could not be accommodated.
     “After the charity event, by letter dated July 22, 2015, the NFL and Roger Goodell sent hush money to Strikes for Kids in the form of a $5,000 check,” the complaint states.
     NFL officials did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment Tuesday afternoon.
     Strikes seeks actual and punitive damages for fraud. It is represented by Julie Pettit in Dallas.
     The lawsuit comes 10 months after Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo filed a similar lawsuit against the NFL over pulling players from attending his company’s fantasy football convention in Las Vegas due to gambling concerns.
     His company, Fan Expo LLC, 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,” Romo’s lawsuit stated.
     In March, Dallas County District Judge Carl Ginsberg dismissed Romo’s fraud, tortious interference with a contract and business disparagement claims against the NFL, but ruled estoppel and breach of contract claims will move forward.
     Romo’s company filed a second lawsuit against the NFL last month, claiming it pressured sponsor EA Sports from pulling out of its fantasy sports convention planned to take place this year in California.

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