The NFL Ordered to Pay $4.7 Billion in Damages for Violating Antitrust Laws

The NFL Ordered to Pay $4.7 Billion in Damages for Violating Antitrust Laws

In a groundbreaking decision, a jury in U.S. District Court has ordered the NFL to pay more than $4.7 billion in damages for violating antitrust laws related to the distribution of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on a premium subscription service. This ruling came after a lawsuit covered 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses in the United States, who paid for the package of out-of-market games from the 2011 through 2022 seasons on DirecTV. The jury awarded $4.7 billion in damages to the residential class and $96 million in damages to the commercial class.

The NFL responded to the verdict by stating that they will appeal the decision, expressing their disappointment with the outcome. The league defended its media distribution strategy, claiming that it is the most fan-friendly model in all of sports and entertainment. The NFL also emphasized that they believe the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit. Post-trial motions are set to be heard on July 31, including one to set aside the verdict. If the verdict stands, the NFL plans to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court.

If the NFL is ultimately held liable for the damages, it could cost each of the 32 teams approximately $449.6 million. This significant financial burden could have lasting implications for the league and its operations moving forward. The trial, which featured testimony from key figures such as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, lasted three weeks before the jury reached its decision. The payment of damages, as well as any potential changes to the “Sunday Ticket” package, will be stayed until all appeals have been concluded.

Other professional sports leagues are closely monitoring this case, as it could set a precedent for how out-of-market packages are distributed in the future. Major differences exist between the NFL and other leagues such as MLB, the NBA, and the NHL, which market their packages on multiple distributors and share revenue per subscriber rather than receiving an outright rights fee. This case could have far-reaching implications for the sports broadcasting industry as a whole.

The verdict against the NFL for violating antitrust laws in the distribution of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games represents a significant legal and financial blow to the league. The outcome of the appeal process will determine the ultimate ramifications for the NFL and its teams. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of fair competition and consumer protection in the sports industry.


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