By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — An attorney just made a huge power move against the NFL, and it might actually work. Michael Avenatti, who is representing a group of fans who last week filed a class-action lawsuit against the league over the cancelled Hall of Fame Game, penned a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell offering to settle the case – and take no money whatsoever for himself in the process.READ MORE: Massachusetts To Provide Weekly At-Home COVID Tests For Students, Staff At Schools
In the letter, Avenatti says the fans involved in the case are entitled to at least $700 in damages, including refunds for their tickets to the cancelled game. But his settlement offer asks the NFL for just $450 in the form of checks distributed to all ticketholders. He also offers (and here’s the real power move) for his firm to take no legal fees from fans already accrued – “not one penny,” the letter reads. And of course, the letter offers to free both the league and the fans from further litigation against each other over the game. According to the letter, the offer stands until Friday, August 19th at 12:01 p.m., after which Avenatti would move forward with the case.
The settlement offer is almost Godfather-esque, especially now that it is part of the public record. If the NFL refuses, it would essentially agree to take its own fans to court and protect its financial interests over a debacle that was largely, if not completely, a result of the league’s own incompetence.
Considering the other legal problems in which the league is already embroiled, can it afford another public battle against the very people who generate the ratings and revenue it so thoroughly values? Are the fans the right group of people for the league to tell “Bring it on!” as it digs in its heels?READ MORE: Massachusetts Reports 56,489 New COVID Cases Over Multiple Days, 47 Additional Deaths
Despite the NFL’s ample legal resources, Avenatti sounds supremely confident that the league cannot win.
Understand that this letter is not designed to explain why we believe the fans will prevail in the case, why the law or the language on the tickets will not save the NFL, why we think it makes no sense for the NFL to litigate against its fans, or why we take issue with the approach the league generally takes when something goes wrong and how this approach is not consistent with your oft-repeated mantra of wanting to “protect the shield” of the NFL. Instead, this letter is sincerely aimed at quickly resolving a dispute that in our view is quite simple – working people paid for and were promised something from the NFL and the Hall of Fame (“HOF”) that they did not receive due to the direct failures of the NFL and the HOF (note – this was not weather related or otherwise outside of your control).
Considering the NFL has spent north of $20 million on other recent legal battles, accepting a settlement in the range of $10 million sounds like the sound strategy. The problem is, if they settle with these fans then maybe other fans will start coming out of the woodwork filing suits and demanding settlement money. No matter what the NFL does from here, Avenatti has sure put them in a tough position.
If nothing else, hopefully this at least makes Goodell squirm a bit.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.