NFL Reaches Settlement with Charity on 2015 Promotional Ban

NFL Players Banned - Casino Promotional Events

Roger Goodell banned players from fantasy football and arm-wrestling events at Las Vegas casinos, too.

The National Football League reached a settlement with a youth charity which was forced by the league to move an event from a Las Vegas area casino in 2015. The charity, Strike For Kids, had called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to testify in the case.

Details of the settlement were not released. Julie Pettit, an attorney for Strike For Kids, told USA Today Sports, “All I am at liberty to say is that the case has settled.

The lawyer for the charity had not been as reticent to criticize the NFL and its commissioner in the weeks leading up to the settlement. In fact, she described Roger Goodell as a man who likes to manipulate people and events behind the scenes, but who hides behind the league apparatus when called to account.

Roger Goodell: “This Oz Behind the Curtain”

USA Today noted that the case had been settled approximately weeks after Roger Goodell had been added to the witness list.

At the time, Julie Pettit told the magistrate judge in the case, “There’s only one person that can tell us what’s the difference between the non-approved venue and the approved venue (Goodell). And he’s this Oz behind the curtain, this person that the NFL will not allow us to talk to. And everyone points their finger at him, saying he’s the only one that can make that determination.”

The case stemmed from a charity bowling event “Strike For Kids” planned to hold in the Sunset Station Hotel and Casino, which holds a 72-lane bowling alley. The event had been planned and advertised for months and included a 25 current and former NFL players on the guest list, who were supposed to bowl with about 100 Las Vegas area kids. The charity said the NFL misled them about the league’s policies, which cost the charity significant funds.

Moved from Sunset Station to Brooklyn Bowl

A few days before the event, the NFL informed the charity that NFL players could not take part in any event inside a casino. The charity was forced to move the event to the Brooklyn Bowl, a local bowling alley with only 16 lanes.

Strike For Kids said that the move cost them sponsors and players, and they blamed the NFL for misleading them and players about the promotional appearance. What irked the charity organizers as much as anything was the fact Brooklyn Bowl is on the grounds of the Linq, another Las Vegas casino. That is why Julie Pettit wanted to force Goodell to testify, to explain why an event at Linq was approved, while the Sunset Station event was not.

Las Vegas Raiders and Sports Betting

The magistrate judge denied Pettit’s request to have the commissioner testify last month. She filed an appeal which was still being considered. Meanwhile, the NFL was facing questions about its policies involving casino appearances, in light of its owners’ decision to approve the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas in 2020.

The NFL said it does not expect proximity to the casinos to be an issue for Las Vegas Raiders players, or those NFL teams visiting Las Vegas on away games. In fact, the NFL does not have a policy against its players visiting casinos; it will not allow those same players or other personnel to attend promotional events.

Tony Romo Cases against Goodell

This is not the first time that players and event organizers have complained about Roger Goodell’s ban on casino promotions. Julie Pettit’s firm sued Roger Goodell and the NFL over its similar ban on a Tony Romo event planned for the Venetian in 2015. At that event, Tony Romo and a group of NFL players he recruited were supposed to attend a fantasy football promotion.

This past spring, Pittsburgh Steelers players James Harrison and Maurkice Pouncey were ban from appearing at an arm-wrestling event in a Las Vegas casino. At the time, James Harrison was less diplomatic then Julie Pettit in describing Roger Goodell, as Harrison called his league’s commissioner “a crook”.

While it would not be a good idea for players to promote casinos directly, many argue that charity events should be an exception. Some have accused the NFL of a double-standard, because they call for players to promote causes the NFL favors.

NFL Injury Reports: A Rule to Help Sportsbooks?

Given its decision to approve a Las Vegas team, one has to assume Commissioner Goodell is going to continue to face charges of a double-standard or hypocrisy, so long as he takes a hard line stance against Las Vegas’s casino economy.

For instance, the NFL insists on franchises releasing detailed and accurate reports of injuries every Wednesday during the NFL season. Such a list can only benefit gamblers and bookmakers, because they need to know if a star player is likely to play before a line is set or a bet is made. At present, Roger Goodell remains against legalized sports betting, while NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred each has expressed a willingness to embrace a federally-regulated sports betting industry.