Lawsuit Coming Over Canceled Hall of Fame Game

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton.
  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton.
In a not-at-all surprising development, lawyer Michael Avenatti says a lawsuit will be filed by Friday over the Hall of Fame game cancellation fiasco in Canton. (He's the same lawyer who handled a suit five years ago against the NFL over Super Bowl tickets.) Via Pro Football Talk, who spoke to Avenatti this morning:

The specific venue for the initiation of the process and the legal theories to be pursued have not been finalized. It’s possible, Avenatti explained, that tort-type claims could be included, based on the alleged negligence that caused the game to not be played. Typically, tort claims unlock a broader range of available compensation than claims based on alleged breaches of contract. Depending on the level of misconduct, tort claims also raise the possibility of punitive damages.

While the Super Bowl XLV case ultimately had roughly 150 plaintiffs, Avenatti said that his latest assault on the NFL could include every fan who made the trip to the stadium in Canton, no matter how long or far they came. That could result in more than 22,000 claims.


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(Original story 8/8/16): "Safety concerns" were cited when NFL officials decided to cancel Sunday night's Hall of Fame game, an exhibition match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts that would have been the first game of the 2016-2017 season, and was supposed to have been televised nationally.  

The safety concerns turned out to be related to the on-field paint at midfield and in the end zones. The paint was "kind of congealing and rubberized, which meant players might slip on it," Hall of Fame president David Baker told the NFL Network.  

The turf field, which had been used for one year at the Superdome in New Orleans, passed multiple safety inspections (including one that morning), but when Hall of Fame personnel couldn't fully remediate the congealing paint situation by the afternoon, the game was called.

"We are very disappointed for our fans," the NFL and its players' association said in a joint statement, "but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight."

(Browns fans are familiar with the perils of slippery surfaces. Last year, QB Josh McCown slipped while running out of bounds after a scramble at the St. Louis Rams stadium. He injured his shoulder in the graceless collision. The very next week, 49ers running back Reggie Bush slipped on the same surface, tearing his ACL.) 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame was offering full refunds for the canceled game, and fans were assured that new turf would be in place for next year's game, but the cancellation is nonetheless a huge eyesore for the league. Sports Illustrated's Peter King denounced it as an embarrassment "of the highest order" in a column Monday morning

"It’s probably smart to play the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game—if you’re going to play it at all—54 miles north in Cleveland, on a pristine field, rather than on a glorified high school field at the Hall of Fame in Canton," King wrote. "There’s just too much at stake, even with a first preseason game with regulars barely seeing the field, to play the game on a risky surface."


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