Did you hear how much the NFL has to fork over?

A jury said the league was on the hook for $14 billion -- with a 'B' -- because of its Sunday Ticket pricing.

I’ve almost stopped cackling at how much the NFL was ordered to fork over in that class-action civil suit involving “Sunday Ticket.”


OK. I’ll know now attempt to proceed with a straight face. A jury found the NFL violated anti-trust rules in the distribution of its Sunday Ticket package, awarding $4.7 billion to what is being called the “residential class” of consumers, meaning people who bought Sunday Ticket for their homes. Because those financial damages can be tripled in a case like this, the league could be forced to pay more than $14 billion.

Now, I lack the legal expertise to tell you why this happened or how likely that verdict is to hold up under appeal …

However …

I have sufficient understanding of the NFL’s overall hubris that I am absolutely relishing the discomfort the lords of that industry must have felt when they awoke on Friday morning. Before I start cackling again, I’ll pause for something more frightening: Thursday night’s presidential debate.

That actually happened

For about a minute on Thursday night, I was subjected to what is my personal nightmare: Listening to two older fellows argue about whose golf game was better. Unfortunately, this exchange occurred during a televised debate between two men asking to be our country’s president for the next four years.

I’m not saying they’re equally bad options because I do see a qualitative difference between the two and what they represent. That exchange, however, was unambiguously depressing about the overall quality of the choice currently being offered the country.

 Back to football

Personally, I’ve never had an issue with the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package. Then again, I’m old enough to remember when your choices about watching Major League Baseball amounted to a game of the week and whoever the Braves were playing on TBS.

If you’re unaware, “Sunday Ticket” is essentially a pay-per-view option that allows you to get any game being televised in either of the two main Sunday time slots. You’re not beholden to whatever the local affiliates choose to put on. Initially, Sunday Ticket was offered exclusively through DirecTV. Beginning last season, it’s available from YouTubeTV.

Since moving to New York, I’ve been happy to pay the several hundred dollars required to purchase “Sunday Ticket” and watch the Seahawks instead of facing the hostage situation of being force fed the Jets and/or Giants.

I have no idea whether the price was “fair” or not. I just know I was willing to pay it, and last year — when the plan switched to YouTube TV — I switched our whole streaming operation to accommodate that.

However …

The NFL operates because of an anti-trust exemption, which essentially means the league is allowed to do things that would be illegal for other businesses. This is about as far as my legal insight goes, though, into the class-action suit the NFL was facing in a California district court.

While I am an educated man, in the words of Colonel Jessup, I’m afraid I can’t speak intelligently about the anti-trust legal theories at the root of the class-action case against the NFL over its “Sunday Ticket” offering. 

Thankfully, for those of you interested in such particulars, Mark Schofield of SB Nation put together a very thorough summary of the argument the plaintiffs put forth. I am content to sit back and laugh – way too hard – at my image of how various NFL owners and head honchos reacted to the verdict.

(Editor’s note: These are figments of Danny’s imagination and any resemblance they bear to things these NFL owners may have said or done is purely coincidental)

“That’s 14 billion, Roger? With a ‘B’?" You better fix it, you sumbitch, or we’ll find some other stuffed shirt who will!”

— Jerry Jones, Dallas owner

“What in the world does an anti-trust exemption have to do with our God-given right to gouge the hell out of everyone we can?”

— Bob Kraft, New England owner and masssage enthusiast

Mark Davis, Las Vegas owner and resident failson

“You better not think we’ve got a bunch of cash to pay for that lying around up here. We’re pretty much a socialist republic.”

Mark Murphy, Green Bay president

Mike Brown, the Bengals cheap-ass owner, was not speaking to anyone, owing to the fact that he passed out after seeing all those zeroes.

OK. I’ll stop daydreaming now and get back to the matter at hand with a short question and answer:

Q: Will the NFL wind up having to pay the $14 billion they could be liable for? I have no clue.

Is $14 billion all that much money for the league? Yes. It is. Not just because of the total amount, but because of the changes it would force the NFL to make going forward. “Sunday Ticket” is a significant part of the NFL’s business model, and if it’s forced to lower its price and/or sell it to multiple distributors, it would have a significant impact on the league’s overall business plan.

Would it bankrupt the league? No.

Would it worsen the on-field product? Probably not.

Would a whole bunch of rich guys get really, really mad and fire a whole bunch of lawyers and league-office types? Probably.

Will “Sunday Ticket” get less expensive? Perhaps. One reason why “Sunday Ticket” nets the NFL so much money is because it is sold exclusively to one party. This used to be DirecTV, now it’s YouTubeTV. The reason those companies paid so much is because they could then turn around and charge a high price because they were the only one offering it.

Will you still buy “Sunday Ticket”? Yep. In fact, I’ve already paid for it for the upcoming season.

Are you potentially in line for some of those damages? No clue. If I am, I will donate that money straight to Montlake Futures. Go Dawgs!

Hope everyone has a good weekend. On Sunday, you’ll be getting the third issue of Grudgery, and I’ve spent way too much time this week trying to explain how Jose Mesa’s insistence on throwing baseballs at Omar Vizquel is the best definition of what a grudge actually is!

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