Regarding the Hall of Fame Game class action, the NFL has dusted off the time-honored “it wasn’t me” defense.
The league has sought dismissal of the lawsuit demanding reimbursement for fans who traveled to Canton for the scuttled exhibition game between the Colts and Packers, with the argument that the league was not a party to the contract allegedly breached between seller and buyer.
“The NFL did not issue the tickets, had no involvement in the Hall of Fame’s sale or distribution of the tickets, and did not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of those tickets,” the league’s lawyers wrote.
The league points to the fact that the Hall of Fame accepted full responsibility for the cancellation of the game, which happened due to delayed painting of the field and negligence in the drying of the paint, which melted many of the millions of rubber pellets that cushion the turf, creating a safety hazard for players.
In a response filed Monday, the plaintiffs argue that the NFL is named on the tickets, and that at a minimum a jury would have to decide whether there’s a sufficient connection between the Hall of Fame and the NFL to justify making the league responsible.
The plaintiffs also contend that the NFL is, at worst, and “undisclosed principal,” pointing to comments from Colts owner Jim Irsay, who said after the cancellation, “Hey, you’re a $12 billion league. How could you not have a field out there ready to go.” Likewise, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent sent an internal memo to all teams pointing out that he is “ultimately” accountable for the field.
It’s hard to imagine the NFL wiggling off the hook for its admitted failure to ensure the readiness of a field on which two NFL teams would be playing. The Commissioner and several owners serve on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees, and few regard the Hall of Fame as an entity separate and apart from the NFL.