NFL Seeks to Overturn $4.7 Billion Jury Verdict in Sunday Ticket Class Action, Citing Juror Bias and Legal Missteps

The NFL, reeling from a significant legal defeat in a class action lawsuit regarding its Sunday Ticket service, is not backing down and is aiming for a reversal of the $4.7 billion jury verdict. Last month, a jury decided against the league in a case that could redefine sports broadcasting economics. The league’s response was swift; shortly after the verdict, they filed for a judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, a new trial.

In its legal motions, the NFL argued that the damages awarded were excessive and irrational. The league contended that the jury misunderstood the economic evidence presented during the trial, claiming the awarded sum represented total discounts received by class members rather than damages. Further, the NFL criticized the rationale behind the jury’s calculation of the supposed overcharges paid by subscribers.

Another point of contention raised by the NFL was the participation of a juror who, despite disclosing a potential conflict of interest due to a family member’s subscription to the service, was allowed to remain by U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez. The league emphasized that the juror’s bias might have influenced the trial’s outcome since they currently paid more for the service than the plaintiffs asserted it was worth.

The class action involved more than 2.4 million residential subscribers and over 48,000 commercial establishments, claiming the NFL’s practice of centralizing broadcasts of out-of-town games through the Sunday Ticket service led to inflated prices. This centralized system, the plaintiffs argued, breached antitrust laws by preventing individual teams from competing in broadcasting their games outside their local markets. Conversely, the NFL defended its model by stating it ensured fans across the U.S. could access games while keeping local broadcasts free.

Particularly controversial was the NFL’s criticism of the jury’s decision-making process. The league claimed that jurors devised an “irrational” damages model, allegedly using a simple phone calculator to determine what they deemed an overcharge by comparing the listed price and the average price paid—a method the NFL strongly disputes.

The league also targeted Gutierrez’s oversight of the trial, arguing that he omitted crucial instructions to the jury that could have influenced their understanding of the legal standards involved. They contended that Gutierrez allowed an incorrect narrative about the league’s historical antitrust issues to be presented to the jury, potentially biasing them against the NFL.

As the case progresses, with a hearing set by Judge Gutierrez for July 31 to consider the NFL’s motion, the potential outcomes range from overturning the verdict, ordering a new trial, reducing the damages, or denying the NFL’s motions completely. If the verdict stands, the NFL has indicated plans to appeal, potentially taking the case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

This litigation underscores the continuing tension between sports leagues’ business practices and antitrust laws, a dynamic previously seen in similar disputes involving Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Those cases ended in settlements after extended legal battles, hinting at a possible resolution path for the NFL.

Regardless of the outcomes, the decision will likely have far-reaching implications for how sports broadcasting rights are managed and could influence future antitrust litigation in sports and other industries.