Patriots Fans Sue Over Top Draft Pick Lost in Deflategate

Victor Mather
Fans show support for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
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Some Patriots fans will just not let it go.

After more than a year of fury over the "Deflategate" decision, even after it was mostly reversed, a group of fans is now taking a case to court.

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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Federal District Court, with a home-field advantage in Boston, the fans demand that the N.F.L. return the first-round draft pick taken from the team as punishment for the scandal. The suit seeks no monetary compensation.

Fans live and die with their teams, and some surely suffer acutely when the team has a setback. But legal experts say this suit has little chance of success.

"We have an uphill battle," Seth Carey, the lawyer who filed the suit, acknowledged in a statement, "but that never stopped a bunch of simple farmers with muskets from taking down a mighty repressive regime."

Michael McCann, a sports law professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, told The Associated Press, "Paying for a ticket to watch the Patriots play isn't interfered with by the team losing a draft pick or two."

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Calling the N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to take the draft pick "arbitrary and capricious," the suit contends that fans of the team were harmed by it.

The main plaintiff, Todd Orsatti, a resident of Bristol, Conn., is a Patriots season-ticket holder who goes to games with his 7-year-old daughter. "She will no longer go to games with him because she thinks the games are fixed by the N.F.L. after her team was punished merely based on conjecture," the suit says. "She is talking about finding another team, which has left Orsatti 'devastated.'"

The suit names Goodell, the N.F.L. and, oddly enough, the Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft as defendants. Kraft is cited because he agreed to the loss of the pick. "Defendant Robert Kraft had remedies to get plaintiff's draft pick back, but he chose his fellow billionaire owners above the plaintiffs and fellow fans," the suit contends.

While quarterback Tom Brady successfully appealed his suspension over the incident, Kraft chose not to appeal the loss of draft picks. Of that decision, Carey said, in a statement: "That attitude is the polar-opposite of what the real patriots fought and died for on the very ground that N.F.L. owners sit while they rake in billions of dollars from us fans."

The suit includes an exhaustive refutation of the charge that the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs.

It concludes by demanding a restraining order to keep the league from taking away the first-round draft pick at the N.F.L. draft on April 28.

The N.F.L. declined to comment.