Tony Romo’s Company Tells NFL to Butt Out

     DALLAS (CN) – Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s company filed a second lawsuit against the National Football League on Wednesday, claiming it pressured sponsor EA Sports to pull out of his fantasy sports convention in California.
     The Fan Expo sued the NFL in Dallas County Court on Wednesday, regarding its annual The National Fantasy Football Convention, set for July in Pasadena. Romo himself is not a party to the lawsuit.
     “Less than two weeks after the press release [announcing the event] was issued by the NFFC, the NFL tortiously interfered with the NFFC’s contracts with sponsors by contacting NFFC sponsors and requiring at least one NFFC sponsor to cancel its participation at the 2016 NFFC event,” the complaint states.
     Fan Expo says an EA Sports official confirmed in April that it was canceling its sponsorship agreement “as a direct result of communication from the NFL.”
     The official said the NFL saw the EA Sports logo on the convention’s website and asked it to cancel its participation, according to the complaint.
     “On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, another confirmed sponsor of the 2016 NFFC event and one potential sponsor of the 2016 NFFC event canceled their participation abruptly and within fifteen minutes of one another,” the complaint states. “Both cancellations were without explanation. On information and belief, they had likewise received communication from the NFL.”
     Attorneys for the NFL did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment Wednesday afternoon.
     Fan Expo seeks actual and punitive damages for business disparagement and tortious interference. It is represented by Julie Pettit, and by Michael K. Hurst with Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst, both of Dallas.
     Romo’s company first sued the NFL in July 2015, claiming it had banned players and league employees from participating in the inaugural NFFC in Las Vegas last year. The NFL said the Sands Expo and Convention Center venue violated the league’s gambling policy.
     “(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 complaint stated.
     Romo said in June that the league could have called him or convention organizers instead of “almost scaring” players scheduled to attend.
     “That just seems silly to me. We could have been far more mature about this,” he said at the time. “That makes you think it was just about money, and that’s disappointing.”
     In March this year, state District Judge Carl Ginsberg dismissed Fan Expo’s claims of fraud, tortious interference and business disparagement in the first lawsuit.
     Fan Expo’s remaining estoppel and breach of contract claims survived and the case is moving forward. Romo is not a party in that lawsuit, either.
     Fan Expo’s attorney Michael Hurst, with Gruber Hurst in Dallas, said at the time that the NFL’s actions were “not just about money, but about control.”
     “The NFL acts like its players are owned by them,” Hurst said. “It acts like they are chattel. They are not.”
     Hurst noted that the league went after Romo but has not gone after New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for his Gronk’s Party Ship, held on a cruise ship with a casino.

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