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Hall of Fame Game lawyer claims league defrauded fans

Pat McAfee, Stephen Houston

Indianapolis Colts’ Pat McAfee (1) jumps behinds Baltimore Ravens’ Stephen Houston (33) after missing a 62-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. The Ravens defeated the Colts 19-18. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)


The lawsuit filed 11 days ago over the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game claims only the that NFL breached the contract arising from the purchase of tickets to the game. Eventually, other claims are likely.

A partial foundation for a potential fraud claim has been provided by, of all things, comments made by Colts punter Pat McAfee in a podcast taped the day after the game that wasn’t played.

‘There was a big ‘no tweeting’ policy, like nobody’s allowed to say sh-t,” McAfee said regarding instructions provided after the teams were told about the cancellation of the game.

McAfee also characterized comments from Hall of Fame president David Baker in this way: “This is gonna be a big f—king problem.”

“They let everybody into the stadium,” McAfee said. “I think that was the issue. So they let everybody into the stadium before telling them it was being canceled.”

Lawyer Michael Avenatti reacted to the McAfee comments in a statement issued to PFT.

“This recording together with other evidence shows that there was a deliberate and collective effort to hide information from the fans until the last possible moment,” Avenatti said. “The league and the Hall wanted to have as many fans enter the stadium as possible and spend money on concessions, etc. before being told the truth. In the law, this is called ‘fraud.’ It is one thing to defraud one person, but another to defraud thousands of people who make your business possible to begin with. The problem for the NFL and [Commissioner Roger] Goodell is that we have now have countless people and whistleblowers who are coming out of the woodwork and disclosing facts to us about what really happened with the game and the timeline. And none of its good for the NFL or Goodell. If they wanted to successfully defraud the fans out of their hard-earned money, they should have done a better job at covering it up and not involved so many people. The NFL now has a big, big problem. And that problem is they have been caught purposely deceiving their fans.”

Those comments make a fraud claim inevitable, with any league of Hall of Fame employees who provide truthful testimony regarding the circumstances surrounding the cancellation potentially acquiring protection against retaliation. And that dynamic could make the league’s decision not to accept the offer to settle the case for $450 per customer even more glaring, once the full costs of the litigation are tabulated.

Avenatti hinted at a potential fraud claim last week, when he issued a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell and Baker instructing them to preserve electronic evidence and explained that Avenatti has reason to believe that incriminating text messages were generated regarding the question of whether the cancellation of the game was deliberately withheld from those who bought overpriced food, beer, programs, and souvenirs because they didn’t know a game wouldn’t be played.