In a lawsuit filed in Boston federal court, the fans contend that
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acted unlawfully when he took away
two draft picks as punishment for the "Deflategate" scandal, in
which the team was accused of manipulating balls to better meet star
quarterback Tom Brady's tastes in a January 2015 playoff game
against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots won that game, setting them on the path to Brady's
fourth Super Bowl championship.
The draft is a key event in the NFL's year, when teams get a chance
to add new players. The most prized athletes are typically picked in
the first rounds of selection.
The fans who brought the lawsuit, which alleges the league violated
the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a charge
typically levied against mob bosses, are residents of Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida.
Lead plaintiff and Patriots season ticket holder Todd Orsatti, of
Bristol, Connecticut, said in the filing that his seven-year-old
daughter was so distraught by the league's Deflategate decision that
she will no longer go to games with him.
The suit is unlikely to succeed, as courts do not generally
recognize fans as having standing to sue on behalf of their teams,
one legal observer said.
"You can't seek relief in court for an injury that someone else
suffered," said Josh Lewin, an attorney with Bowditch & Dewey
specializing in civil litigation. "The court won't let people do
Patriots owner Robert Kraft reluctantly accepted the lost draft
picks, the second set for the fourth round of the 2017 draft, as
well as a $1 million fine. The team successfully challenged the
NFL's effort to suspend Brady from playing in the first four games
of the 2015-2016 season.
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A New York federal court judge blocked that suspension days before
the season's start; the league has since appealed that decision
contending that Goodell acted within his rights as league
An NFL spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
An NFL report on the allegations found it was "more probable than
not" that Brady, now 38, had been "generally aware" that two
low-level Patriots employees had conspired to reduce the air
pressure of footballs.
Brady and the team deny wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Andrew Hay and Dan Grebler)
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