Fan Expo LLC Sues the NFL for $1 Million after NFL Bans Players from Attending Convention

Fan Expo LLC, the company which organized a fantasy football event in Las Vegas last month, is suing the NFL for $1 million in damages for its successful attempt to squelch the convention. The lawsuit cites the NFL’s decision to pressure 60 NFL players–including Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr, and Rob Gronkowski–from attending the convention.

The suit claims that Romo and other players gave the football league months of advance notice, so they could make a decision early. After planning and marketing a convention with 60 players, the league decided to announce to Romo and 60 other players that they could not attend.

After renting a convention hall and spending big money to market the inclusion of 60 players, the convention holders had to cancel the event.

NFL Called Players’ Parents with Threats

In fact, the lawsuit alleges the NFL’s actions went far beyond simply banning players from attending. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the NFL called players’ “teams, families, their agents and, in some cases, even their parents” to tell them players would be fined or suspended if they attended the event. Also, the NFL told NFL Network’s Michael Fabiano that he could no longer work for their network if he hosted the convention, as was planned.

Under intense pressure from Roger Goodell’s office, the players and broadcasters caved and declined to attend the event. In turn, the Fan Expo collapsed, with large bills still left to be paid.

NFL Is Enforcing Longstanding Rules

The NFL says it is enforcing its own rules, which state that players cannot attend events which are held at or sponsored by gambling-related venues. Fan Expo’s lawsuit said the convention center where the event was supposed to take place was not a gambling venue, nor is it named after a casino company. The Las Vegas event center is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. Some confusion might have been caused by early fliers, which wrongly stated that the 3-day convention would be held at the Venetian.

Avoiding Ties to the Gambling Industry

The Fan Expo case is the NFL’s latest effort to distance itself from the sports betting industry. The NFL consistantly has tried to distance itself from sportsbooks and bookmakers, even before it championed the 1992 PASPA law to ban gambling in 46 states. Currently, the NFL is part of a lawsuit to keep New Jersey from legalizing sports betting.

The NFL’s says it wants to preserve the integrity of the game. If the NFL is like the NBA, then it might be more concerned about preserving a potential revenue source in the future. Roger Goddell has stated before he would explore daily fantasy football deals, but was cautious. The NBA’s Adam Silver has suggested an end to the ban, but only under federal guidelines. Commissioner Silver wants to legalize sports betting on the NBA, but arrange matters well enough that the NBA gets its cut of the action. The lawsuit against New Jersey (which the NBA backs) is therefore a way to assure no gambling takes place without the NBA getting a cut.

Not everything the NFL does sends the signal that sports betting is wrong. The league’s front office insists that teams should release accurate and detailed injury reports every Wednesday of the season. This injury report has specific guidelines for what to list and how to describe it. Such precision would not be important, if it did not affect sports betting. Having a star player miss a game is often worth 3 points to sports bettors–sometimes more for a star quarterback.

Goodell’s Controversial NFL Tenure

American sports leagues have always had a complicated relationship with the sports betting industry. Hypocrisy and double-dealing is a generational pattern. What isn’t a pattern is the NFL seeking to thrust player issues into the spotlight.

Controversy has become a common theme in the Roger Goodell regime. Since the NFL Commissioner took office in 2006, he has led the league through stern judgments and the increasing presence of authority.

Dan Le Batard Blasts Goodell

Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald suggested that Roger Goodell’s leadership style is one focused on crisis management. When Roger Goodell became NFL commissioner, he let it be known he would punish players for off-the-field problems. Many people, including myself, approved of Goodell’s stance. Dan Le Batard suggested in his article that he supported that stance, too, but player incidents have allowed Goodell to grab ever-more spotlight. Even when Goodell messes up–like the Ray Rice scandal–he uses it as an excuse to carve out more responsibilities for himself. Everything is about attaining more power, authority, and control over the NFL.

If so, then Roger Goodell seems intent on chaos manufacture, which is a bizarre way to run a major sports league. Chaos manufacture is a style of interpersonal manipulation people use to establish control over another person, usually partners, family members, or friends. Everyone walks on eggshells, allowing whoever manufactured the chaos to cement a bit more control over people and situation. Everyone else is confused by the crisis. In the confusion, the manufacturer of chaos attains more control.

Xi Jinping’s Consolidation Campaign

For gambling readers who think that is too personal or too psychological of an analogy, you might prefer a comparison to Xi Jinping, the current President of China. When Xi came to power in 2012, he appears to have launched an anti-corruption campaign to solidify his power in China. Xi Jinping began to denounce corruption in the party, which allowed him to gain popularity with the Chinese masses. Well-meaning party officials, Chinese business leaders, and China’s new burgeoning middle class had wanted a crackdown, so the campaign had mass appeal.

Whether Xi Jinping’s reasons for launching the crackdown were noble or cynical, it certainly cemented his control of the top position. The investigations have not stopped, though. Xi Jinping always seems to find new corruption to punish, so the anti-corruption investigations have ripped through the Chinese business class and the city of Macau, just as it ripped through the communist party.

Manufacturing Chaos and Crises

In the same way, Roger Goodell always finds a new crisis to foment. He thrusts himself into the middle of player and team scandals, even when it gave the NFL months of bad publicity. Take the Deflategate scandal as an example. No one really can figure out what type of advantage Tom Brady and the New England Patriots got from deflating balls, or if other teams did the same thing. Yet Goodell was willing to make that the key story of the NFL offseason. Whether it was good for the league or not, Deflategate assured Goodell would be at the center of the NFL debates throughout the offseason.

The Fan Expo story seems like another case of manufactured chaos. This could have been handled in March 2015, when it first became known to the league. Instead, the NFL waited until the summer, after all the plans and deals were made, and then made an issue of things. That style has landed the NFL in the sports news once more, because its inevitably spurred a lawsuit. That keeps the NFL in the news, but not for anything good. It’s constant controversy, all the time

No Longer the Teflon League

I remember when the NFL was considered the Teflon League. It flew under the radar and no scandal seemed to damage the product on the field. Those days are long gone. In fact, they are ten years gone.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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