Patriots fans sue NFL over lost 'Deflategate' draft picks

Wed Apr 6, 2016 10:00am EDT
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(Corrects second paragraph of April 5 story to show "Deflategate" game played against Indianapolis Colts)

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Seven New England Patriots fans sued the National Football League on Tuesday, asking a judge to reverse a decision by the league to strip the team of a first-round pick in this month's draft over allegations of underinflated footballs.

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 Indianapolis Colts.

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.   Continued...

Feb 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during Super Bowl LI press conference at the Moscone Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports