Nothing says “America” like lawsuits. What, don’t believe me? Bald eagles are dying out and can be found in Mexico and Canada, and those apples in your pie are originally from Kazakhstan. Nope, nothing is more patriotic than filing a good old fashioned lawsuit.
If all of this sounds familiar to you, then you may be a regular reader here at TheSportster, because we’ve covered lawsuits before, some good and some bad. But what of the truly ridiculous, utterly insane sports related lawsuits? The ones some desperate, broke nobody thought they could sneak into the justice system and win a case, or at least win some paltry sum in a settlement? It is the American way, after all.
A man once sued Michael Jordan and Nike because Jordan looked like him, and he wanted the money from Air Jordans, for example. Then there are at least half a dozen lawsuits involving a fan suing a team because they lose too much.
Many of these lawsuits don’t even make it to court before they’re shot down, but every so often, one or two do slip through the cracks and get before a judge. That’s why there are so many to begin with, because the system works. It’s all part of some get-rich-quick scheme that people like to pull every so often, and everyone knows it, but we have to go along with it anyway.
Unless, that is, the judge inexplicably decides to go off the script and rules that the ones filing the ridiculous lawsuits should win. Sure, the guy who sued Nike and Michael Jordan lost, but what if he won? What if there were ten or so cases where the one’s filing equally ridiculous, or even more ridiculous, lawsuits actually won? Keep reading to find out…
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12 James “Yazoo” Smith Sues Over the Draft
The United States military stopped drafting soldiers in 1973 and although they could start doing it with the outbreak of war against China or Malta, it’s pretty unlikely. Sports on the other hand, conscription is a little more mandatory.
Indeed, before the stoppage of the military draft, James Smith, known as “Yazoo,” tried to stop the NFL Draft in 1970. He was drafted by the Redskins with the 12th overall pick in 1968, making a measly $50k salary. Unfortunately, his career ended after just 14 weeks after a neck injury.
Smith sued the NFL to stop the draft and he actually won the suit and the appeal by the NFL, getting $276,000 in 1977. That year, the Supreme Court ruled that the draft was basically illegal. The draft still goes on, obviously, and that’s because of a technicality. Since the draft has the support of the NFL Players Association, it is allowed to go on.
This lawsuit is stupid because the draft is absolutely essential to any sports league. Sure it might not be fair to be saddled with the Browns, but without a draft, every young NFL player would wind up with the Patriots or Cowboys. Teams that build through the draft like the Panthers, Seahawks, or Colts and don’t have big markets and big money would be out of business in a matter of years.
11 The WWF vs. the WWF
Remember when the WWE was called the WWF? The Worldwide Wrestling Federation had been around since the 80s, two decades after the Worldwide Wildlife Foundation started. The old WWF let the new WWF use the initials because they’re nice people. They have a panda for a logo, how can they not be nice?
But all that changed in 2002 when the old WWF sued the new WWF because reasons. The official “reasons” had to do with overseas trademarking in regards to merchandise. Basically, the WWF didn’t like the WWE selling Hulk Hogan toys in Lithuania, so they sued them.
A settlement was reached out of court, likely involving money but no amount was ever mentioned, and the Worldwide Wrestling Foundation became Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., which would eventually just be WWE after 2011.
In addition to the name change, courts ordered the WWE to remove all references to WWF from its videos and photos, resulting in almost all of the organizations archives to end up being blurrier than photos of aliens. They did change their slogan to “Get the F out,” though, which is the cleverest thing they’ve ever done.
10 Buffalo Bills Spam
Spam is an odd meat product shoved into blue tin cans. Many of them are… pork, I think, but there also exists a turkey variety. In the state of New York, there’s also a buffalo kind, until a 2012 lawsuit shut it down.
That was a very roundabout way of saying the Bills sent a lot of spam messages to a dude once. Bills fan Jerry Wojcik signed up for an automated newsletter service for the Bills, you know, one of those things no one signs up for? According to the terms of service, the Bills couldn’t send anyone signing up to the program more than five texts a week. They sent Mr. Wojcik six one week, then seven another.
This… this betrayal of trust could only be mended by one thing: a $3 million lawsuit, which Wojcik won. The money will be paid out to everyone who signed up for the service in the form of pre-paid debit cards, yes really. However, the cards can only be used in the Bills online store and stadium gift shop. Wojcik himself will be getting an additional $5,000, because why not?
9 A Hockey League Released Some Kids Once
If a hockey league literally cut your kids, that would be one thing. Instead, internet writers are left to make a lame joke about it. What actually happened is a couple of kids in the Greater Toronto Hockey League were cut from a team after spring tryouts. The parents, like any great parent would do, refused to accept their children weren't perfect at everything, instead blaming the hockey team.
Two sets of parents filed a lawsuit against the league, the team, and four officials within the league. The reason? The parents alleged that the coaches on the team weren’t eligible to be coaches because they got suspended once back in May 2009. The kids were kicked off the team in spring 2010.
The league argued the coaches weren’t breaking the suspension, yet reached a settlement with the parents anyway. The settlement didn’t include the kids playing for the team, but the parents are getting paid. So… yay?
8 Courtside Litigation
In a sport more about fame and fortune than the actual game itself, courtside tickets in the NBA are a prestigious status symbol. You’d think anyone sitting thoat close to the action would know the risks, but that doesn’t stop some fans from trying to make a buck.
That’s exactly what happened in 2005 when Kobe Bryant crashed into a Grizzlies fan sitting courtside. The fan, Bill Geeslin, suffered a bruised lung cavity and sued Kobe Bryant himself for “intentionally forearming” him, with intent to injure.
Geeslin died a few months later (of unrelated causes), but his family went ahead with the lawsuit. After seven years of going through the court system, Bryant apparently finally had enough in 2012 and reached a settlement with the Geeslin family. The family was seeking an “amount exceeding $75,000,” which is little more than pocket change to him anyway.
7 Michael Jordan and Safeway got Beef
This one might be a bit controversial, but stick with it. Earlier this year, Michael Jordan, greatest NBA player of all time and current owner of the Hornets, sued Safeway (a grocery store chain). The chain ran an ad in Chicago stores in 2009, the year Jordan got into the Hall of Fame, that read “Congratulations Michael Jordan” and came with a $2 off coupon for steak.
Jordan didn’t give them his permission and sued the chain. They wanted to give him $126,900, but his lawyer brought in a “sports economist” who said the ads were worth over $10 million to Jordan. The judge ruled in favor of the Hall of Famer and ordered the chain to pay Jordan $8.9 million in damages.
Okay, so technically, the chain used his name without permission. But they were saying congratulations to him, nothing more. There was no photo of Jordan, only of his jersey number and his name. There was a $2 coupon for some cheap beef and nothing more. That can hardly be worth nearly $9 million.
6 The Real “12th Man”
Everyone knows the Seattle Seahawks for their “12th Man” thing. Their stadium is the loudest in the league, perhaps the country, and the team always raises the #12 flag during games in their honor. What better way to make fans more willing to spend money than pretend like they’re an integral part of the team’s success? I mean, what a great way of honoring the fans!
Well, apparently Texas A&M (that’s Agriculture and Military, but you probably already knew that) is also known for the 12th man, no seriously. They were so angry in 2006 at Seattle for stealing their generic phrase, they sued them.
The Seahawks settled with the Aggies not long after. The agreement states that Texas A&M totally came up with the phrase and legally own the trademark. However, the Seahawks would still be allowed to use it as long as they pay a licensing fee, though the exact amount remains undisclosed.
5 Donald Trump Sues the NFL (For Good Reasons!)
Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States and greatest businessman ever, has a habit of exercising his right to a lawyer.
Back in 1983, Dear Leader Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals, a team in the upstart United States Football League. The plan for the USFL was to play football in the spring, so they wouldn’t compete with the NFL. The plan was working, as the league grew each year. However, Trump wanted to compete with the NFL and to wipe them out, angry they wouldn’t let him purchase one of their teams. He strong armed his way into forcing the USFL to play in the fall, the same time as the NFL.
Supreme Commander Trump, and the rest of the USFL, sued the NFL in 1986 for violating anti-trust laws involving TV deals during the fall. Displaying his brilliance, Trump and the USFL actually won in court. However, the savages gave the USFL exactly $1 in damages. You didn’t read that wrong, they got exactly ONE United States Dollar.
The league ended up spending so much money and time on the lawsuit they would end up folding later that year, not at all Trump’s fault.
Please don’t sue us.
4 M.I.A. $16 Million Middle Finger
The NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime Show is a huge musical event. Unfortunately for all of us, the NFL themselves pick who performs, sticking us with the 70 year old members of The Who, The Black Eyed Peas, and, most infamous of all, Madonna in 2012.
Performing alongside Madonna was M.I.A., a woman who sings, apparently. On national television, the lady singer gave the middle finger salute and got a whopping $1.5 million fine from the NFL for, and this isn’t made up, violating the “reputation for wholesomeness” of the NFL.
However, years later, the NFL decided to sue M.I.A. for an even more ridiculous $16.6 million, which they claimed was restitution for the exposure she got for the publicity stunt. In 2014, the two sides settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, but you can bet it was several million.
The best part is a quote from M.I.A., who called the lawsuit by the NFL: “massive waste of time, a massive waste of money, it’s a massive display of powerful corporation d***-shaking.”
3 Nike Sues German Player over his Shoes
Exclusivity clauses are a relatively recent trend in celebrity contracts which can be very binding. Look no further than Sony winning ownership of one their celebrity endorsers back in 2013 for an example. Or here, for another one.
Mesut Ozil, a soccer player in Germany, was sued by Nike in 2012 for wearing Adidas cleats during games. Nike won the suit in court, resulting in about a $163,000 fine.
What makes this one so ridiculous is that the contract Ozil signed with Nike had expired when he started wearing the Adidas shoes. There’s a “matching right” in Ozil’s contract that says Nike can match any offer other companies make, meaning if Adidas offers him a contract for $10 million, Nike can match it and he has to sign with Nike.
Ozil says he didn’t sign a contract with anyone, therefore he was under no obligation to sign or do anything. However, a judge actually ruled against him, stating that it was unlikely Ozil would wear Adidas shoes unless he was paid to do so, truly a ringing endorsement for Adidas.
2 Yes, Dan Snyder is a Skin-hole
No one particularly likes Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Whether it’s owning a team with a racist name, insisting he totally has Native American friends that love the name, or generally driving the team into the ground, Synder has all bases covered.
One underrated aspect of Snyder’s skin-holeness is his suing ability. Like in 2009, when Snyder sued a 72 year old woman who was a season ticket holder for not showing up to games.
The woman, a grandmother by the way, was a real estate agent who held season tickets since the early 1960s. In 2009, after the housing market collapsed, she asked the team to waive her tickets. Instead of agreeing, Snyder sued her for “backing out of a 10-year ticket-renewal agreement after the first year.”
The grandmother couldn’t afford a lawyer, so the skin-hole won a default judgement of over $66,000. Needless to say, she can’t afford to pay that either and considered filing for bankruptcy. It was only after a few days of intense backlash from media and the public that Snyder decided she didn’t have to pay after all.
1 Texas A&M does it Again!
Texas A&M sure likes suing people over that whole “12th Man” thing. First it was the lawsuit against the Seahawks, and most recently they’ve decided to sue the Indianapolis Colts for the same thing. But the somehow accredited university from Texas really took the cake in 2014, when the school sued a double amputee.
That’s right, a double amputee (and cancer survivor) ran a Buffalo Bills fan site called 12ThManThunder. A month after issuing the lawsuit, Charles Sonntag, the double amputee in question, reached a settlement with the school and changed the site’s name.
Yes, amputees and cancer survivors are not above the law, that’s correct. However, what does it say about an organization that’s willing to sue a cancer survivor over something so ridiculously nonsensical as the term 12th Man? And people dare to say Texas A&M isn’t the bully, no, they are. Naming a fan site 12ThManThunder doesn’t hurt you in any way, shape, or form.
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