NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at left.
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - A legal bid by New England Patriots fans to force the NFL to give the team back its first-round draft pick will be an uphill battle, the attorney for the seven plaintiffs admitted.
The seven fans, from Massachusetts, Florida and New Jersey, filed suit in federal court in Boston, accusing the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell of fraud, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and racketeering.
“We have an uphill battle,” attorney Seth Carey recently told Legal Newsline, “and we are the decided underdog, but that never stopped a bunch of simple bunch of farmers with muskets from taking down a mighty repressive regime.”
The Patriots lost the first-round pick, a fourth-round pick in 2017, and were fined $1 million after an investigation found that quarterback Tom Brady was aware footballs may have been partially deflated before the 2015 AFC Championship game.
In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Carey argues, “In short, after a three-month, multi-million dollar investigation, actual proof of a plot to deflate footballs was never found.”
The attorney said fans were left emotionally distressed by the affair. The 7-year-old daughter of lead plaintiff and season ticket holder Todd Orsatti will no longer go to the games because she thinks they “are fixed by the NFL.”
“She is talking about finding another team, which has left Orsatti ‘devastated’,” Carey wrote in the complaint.
The suit claims the league and Goodell relied on "false premises and biased 'investigations'" in handing down the punishment.
The suit also criticizes Kraft for not fighting the league's punishments harder.
"Defendant Robert Kraft had remedies to attempt to get plaintiffs' draft pick back, but he chose his fellow billionaire owners above the plaintiffs and fellow fans,'' the complaint states.
Carey told Legal Newsline he was “so disappointed" in Kraft and that he "would accept the NFL’s punishment without challenging it, despite doing nothing wrong.”
"Letting the powerful suppress us when we have done nothing wrong is about as un-American as it gets,” Carey said. “The fans have stepped in the shoes of their absentee owner to fight for our first round pick.”
He added, “I intend to fight with everything I have to get our pick back before the draft on April 28. Worst case we will lose, but this will be a shot across the bow to the NFL.”
Carey noted the complaint was filed so close to the draft so the NFL will realize “deflategate” is bad for business.
But some legal experts argue the plaintiffs don't have much of a case.
"Paying for a ticket to watch the Patriots play isn't interfered with by the team losing a draft pick or two,'' Michael McCann, a sports law professor at the University of New Hampshire Law School, recently told the Boston Herald.