The New England Patriots could find themselves defending a lawsuit by NFL fans miffed about their secret videotaping of signals from New York Jets coaches.
The NFL bans such videotaping and issued $750,000 in fines against the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick after they were caught taping signals at the Jets' 2007 home opener in Giants Stadium.
Lawyer Carl Mayer, a Jets season ticket holder from Princeton, N.J., argued in a U.S. appeals court Wednesday that fans spent vast sums of money to see games that were essentially rigged. His suit, earlier dismissed by a lower court, seeks $185 million in damages for Jets fans alone.
Mayer, who asked the appeals court to revive the suit, said he hopes to learn the extent of the Patriots' taping, dubbed Spygate, through discovery.
"The game will become more and more corrupt if there is no remedy," said his lawyer, Bruce Afran. "The NFL will degenerate into the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)."
NFL lawyers insist the Patriots violated only league rules — not any civil or criminal laws. They fear that disappointed fans will sue over myriad game day complaints if the case is upheld.