Imagine buying tickets to watch the New York Jets play at home, then finding out they play in New Jersey.
Upset? Maybe, especially if it costs you to get to East Rutherford.
Worth suing over? If you answered “yes,” then a new federal lawsuit filed in the famed Southern District of New York is for you.
Abdiell Suero, a New Yorker who attends games at MetLife Stadium, has sued the two teams, the league and the stadium for false advertising, racketeering and unlawful conspiracy. In a complaint authored by attorney Evan Spencer, Suero hopes his case is eventually certified as a class action on behalf of similarly situated fans. These fans are supposedly “damaged” by the “New York” teams playing home games in the Garden State. Suero demands $2 billion in compensatory damages and $4 billion in punitive damages.
Suero’s complaint contends that “many NFL fans would not attend live games of the Giants or Jets if they were warned in advance that they play in the State of New Jersey.” These fans are “subjected to expensive and time-consuming transportation” going from New York to New Jersey. The round trip “takes an average of four hours or more on game day at a very high cost either by way of public transportation or motor vehicle.” Tolls for bridges, tunnels, the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway exceed $16. Meanwhile, traveling by rideshare or taxi can run $125 or more.
Worse yet for Giants and Jets fans, they’re “insulted, ridiculed, harassed, tormented, and bullied by NFL fans around the United States due to the affiliation of the Giants and Jets with the State of New York rather than their true home, New Jersey.” This alleged “torment” has contributed to fans enduring “mental and emotional damages including depression, sadness, and anxiety, as well as limited and damaged eustress, self-esteem, escape, entertainment, group affiliation and family needs.”
The complaint also suggests that TV viewers of Jets and Giants games are victims in that they’re “given the false impression” about the teams’ true location. Meanwhile, New York state and NYC are deprived of untold dollars in taxes and jobs if the teams played in the Empire State.
The Jets and Giants aren’t alone in geographic chicanery, the complaint explains. The Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington, the Washington Football Team play in Landover, Md., and the San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara.
Suero sees the naming of teams to larger markets as part of a broader conspiracy to “artificially inflate the revenue and value” of NFL franchises. This supposed conspiracy, the complaint insists, also “fraudulently” boosts prices for tickets, merchandise and memorabilia.
The defendants will answer the complaint, argue it is frivolous and seek its dismissal.
The most obvious defense is that the complaint doesn’t describe unlawful activity. Linking a team’s name to an adjacent locale, the defendants can insist, neither breaks the law nor misleads consumers. Businesses have significant discretion in their naming. Jets and Giants fans, for that matter, include many New Yorkers, as well as people from New Jersey and other states. The Jets and Giants are part of New York’s community even if they don’t technically play in New York.
The Jets and Giants can also maintain that fans aren’t harmed by the teams’ playing about a dozen miles from NYC. Traveling to games and parking near stadiums would bring about costs no matter where the teams play. Those expenses also invariably range from where fans travel from and how they travel. A fan who chooses to buy tickets is also making a choice; if New York fans don’t want to travel to New Jersey, they don’t have to buy a ticket.
Although the Jets and Giants likely won’t draw attention to their recent struggles, the extent to which their fans feel “ridiculed” and “saddened” might have more to do with the performance on the field than where the field is located.
Lastly, if the state or City of New York feels ripped off over the two football teams playing in New Jersey, they can pursue legal action against those teams. Noticeably, they haven’t.
Judge Alison Nathan, who is a nominee of President Biden to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is the presiding judge for Suero v. NFL.