Tony Romo-backed Fan Expo dealt setback in lawsuit vs. NFL

DALLAS -- If Tony Romo's fantasy-football themed convention is to win its court case against the NFL, then it will need a comeback.

On Monday, Judge Carl Ginsberg granted summary judgment to the NFL that throws out the tortious interference claim brought by the Romo-backed The Fan Expo, LLC, that led to the cancellation of the National Fantasy Football Convention in 2015.

"The NFL is gratified with the court's ruling, which was a careful analysis, and we believe it was the correct one," said attorney Thad Behrens, who represented the NFL.

The Fan Expo's attorneys, Michael Hurst and Julie Pettit, said they will file an appeal but they hope two other claims, including breach of contract, will head to a jury trial. Hurst said the plan is to depose commissioner Roger Goodell, but a ruling has not been made as of yet.

"We do know there's ample evidence in the record that NFL sponsorships and other folks at the NFL got angry that the event had gotten as large as it was getting with no prior involvement," Hurst said.

"So you have months that the NFL knew this event was going to be taking place, that they had contracted to participate in the event, that the NFL knew the event was taking place at the Venetian and all of a sudden three months later, right before the event was taking place, the NFL decides, 'Hey, the gambling policy, we can use the gambling policy to pull all of our people out of there and cancel our contracts.'"

The Fan Expo had contracts with several NFL Media employees, which required league approval, and contends that the league contacted the NFL Players Association and players' agents to threaten a fine or suspension if a player participated at the event.

In court, Behrens said the league and NFLPA were in agreement that the event violated the policy and mentioned four events dating back to 2012 in which players were given similar warnings about events connected to casinos that were canceled.

The Fan Expo's attorneys countered with several examples in which events continued despite being connected to gambling sites, such as a cruise hosted by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski two weeks ago. It also cited a birthday party hosted by Gronkowski at a Las Vegas casino last year.

Behrens said in court that the NFLPA and Gronkowski's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were warned that the cruise could violate the gambling policy.

"The NFL wasn't going to get the cut that it wanted to get, NFL sponsorships or what have you," Hurst said. "The NFL Players Association may have been upset they're not getting their cut. But at the end of the day it's about both money, and I would also add it was about control. The NFL acts like the NFL players are owned by them. It acts like they're chattel and they're not. The NFL players are not employees of the NFL. They have their own independent lives, and they are not required to do everything in favor of the NFL."

Contacted by ESPN, an NFL spokesman said the league has "no information that indicates a violation of policy" and clarified that Behrens was referencing testimony from January before the cruise took place.

Pettit would not call Gronkowski's cruise a violation of the league's policy.

"I would say federal labor law by the phrase 'law of the shop' doctrine is what governs this," Pettit said. "That requires consistent enforcement. That's what the NFL has not been doing. They've not been consistently enforcing this policy."

The NFFC will host its first convention in Pasadena, California, on July 15-17. More than 100 players are scheduled to appear.