Judge dismisses daily fantasy player lawsuit over sign-stealing scandal

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I had missed this over the weekend, but a federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought in New York against Major League Baseball by a group of daily fantasy sports players. They claimed to have been harmed by the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox sign-stealing.

The judge started out his opinion in deliciously cheeky fashion:

A sport that celebrates “stealing,” even if only of a base, may not provide the perfect encouragement to scrupulous play. Nor can it be denied that an overweening desire to win may sometimes lead our heroes to employ forbidden substances on their (spit) balls, their (corked) bats, or even their (steroid-consuming) selves. But as Frank Sinatra famously said to Grace Kelly (in the 1956 movie musical High Society), “there are rules about such things.”

Then, eventually, he hit ’em with his decision:

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The daily fantasy players’ claim was, basically, that they were gambling on contests that were, unbeknownst to them, rigged. As I wrote several weeks back, there is considerable case law which holds that sports fans and gamblers have extraordinarily limited legal interests with respect to sporting events. If you buy a ticket you are entitled to see a game, basically, but that’s about it. You do not have a legal interest in its competitive integrity. If someone in the game cheats or breaks the rules, they have not done damage to you that is legally cognizable. People have tried these suits before — most notably and recently in the wake of the various scandals surrounding the New England Patriots — and they’re always dismissed. So, no, no surprise.

The lawsuit filed by former big league pitcher Mike Bolsinger, claiming that he was personally injured by the Astros’ sign stealing, is still pending in California. The Astros have recently asked the court to have the case dismissed on the basis that it was a grandstanding act that, among other things, should not have been brought in Los Angeles. I think, legally, they’re right about the venue argument but I have bored you enough already. We’ll talk more about it when the court rules.