The National Football League is the target of a federal lawsuit claiming it sabotaged a fan-oriented event that was scheduled for July.

The Fan Expo, LLC, which initiated legal action against the NFL in the Dallas County 193rd District Court on July 21, charges the defendant intimidated players into not participating in The National Fantasy Football Convention in Las Vegas.

According to court papers, the NFL threatened to fine and “potentially” suspend the players if they graced the NFFC.

“Through these actions, the NFL tortuously interfered with the NFFC’s contracts with NFL players and NFL media personnel, as well as with the fans and participants who had planned and paid for tickets, travel, and hotel accommodations in order to attend the event,” the original petition says. “As a direct result of the malicious and groundless threats made by the NFL, numerous players and media personnel withdrew their participation from the convention, and it became impossible for the NFFC to execute the July 2015 event.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, a Dallas entrepreneur and a team of fantasy football experts formed the NFFC earlier this year, and in March, an announcement about the inaugural three-day event in July was made. The NFFC’s purpose was to give NFL fans the opportunity to meet current and former stars, as well as media personalities and football experts, live and in person through keynotes, panel discussions, question and answer sessions, autograph opportunities, photo ops, games, exhibits, and drafts, the suit says.

The plaintiff points out that the NFL originally expressed its support after Romo announced the NFFC, and the event subsequently gained momentum, excitement and interest. Buoyed by the positive feedback, the NFFC embarked on a “multi-faceted” social media marketing campaign, as well as appeared on radio and television programs to promote the event to millions of fantasy football fans.

The suit further shows that the NFL, however, “had an abrupt change of heart due, likely to the success experienced by the NFFC.” In early June, the respondent began to warn players not to go to the NFFC, it says.

The NFL, despite assurances the NFFC would not take place at a casino and would not involve gambling, purportedly continued its threats, going as far as reaching out to the National Football League Players Association to help it.

“After bullying the NFL players into withdrawing from the NFFC event, the NFL tried to justify its behavior and acted like it had an ‘ace in the hole,’ the suit says. “In a statement to FOX Sports, a representative of the NFL stated, ‘Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.’”

Romo’s marketing agent was reportedly told about the league’s stance.

The complaint accuses the NFL of ambiguity in its gambling policy when it comes to the NFFC. “The convention facility is not a casino,” it says. “The facility does not even have a gaming license, much less the facilities that would be necessary for gambling activities. The facility is a convention center – nothing more.”

Consequently, the plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorneys Julie Pettit and David B. Urteago of The Pettit Law Firm in Dallas represent it.

Dallas County 193rd District Court Case No. DC-15-08119

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