Loco Lawsuits: It’s the NFL’s Fault

I no longer follow the NFL but with the teams being set for the Super Bowl, it seems appropriate to kick off Loco Lawsuits with a reminder that sometimes there’s little difference between a fan and a fanatic.

In the 2014 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys won the East Division, putting them in the playoffs for the first time in five years. On January 11, 2015, they met the Green Bay Packers, North Division champs, in the divisional round of the playoffs. Both teams had 12-4 records during the regular season. With just 4:42 left in the game, the Cowboys trailed 26-21. On a fourth-and-two from Green Bay’s 32-yard-line, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw to wide receiver Dez Bryant, who led all receivers in touchdowns that year. Bryant was brought down at the 1-yard-line.

Green Bay, however, challenged the call. The officials overturned their initial ruling, saying Bryant did not maintain possession of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground. As a result, Green Bay got the ball and ran out the clock to win the game. Cowboys fans were livid. In fact, one fan — who just happened to be an inmate of the Colorado State Penitentiary — went after the NFL, its commissioner, its director of officiating and the referee in federal court in Texas just 10 days after the game.

Terry C. Hendrix filed a one-page, handwritten “Notice of Intent to File Suit” on behalf of Bryant, all Dallas Cowboy fans and “All People in or/and from the Sovereign Republic of Texas.” He alleged the NFL committed fraud and engaged in “gross negligence” by reversing the original call on Bryant’s “outstanding” catch. He said the NFL’s “gross stupidity” stole a win from the Cowboys “because the Cowboys offense would have perfectly created an ‘autobahn'” for the season’s leading rusher, DeMaro Murphy, to score.

Hendrix wanted damages for injury to “the hearts, minds, and souls of but not limited to [Bryant, the] onfield offense of and to include all the cheeerrrleaders [sic], fans” and everyone in or from Texas. How much? “$88,987,654,321.88ยข” For the curious, the first and last two digits are Bryant’s uniform number with a countdown from nine in between.

It took the judge less than 30 days to dismiss Hendrix’s lawsuit. It ran afoul of a federal “three strike” statute governing in forma pauperis actions. It says that unless there’s “imminent danger of serious physical injury,” prisoners cannot file such suits if they’ve previously had three or more federal court actions dismissed for being “frivolous, malicious,” or failing to state a claim. Before filing this suit, federal courts in Oregon and Delaware dismissed three of his civil actions as frivolous.

Ironically, the NFL decided three years later that Bryant made a legal catch.

Professional football is a cult.

Mary McGrory, “Deliver Us From Football,” Chicago Tribune (October 13, 1975)

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