Lawsuits cost the U.S. economy a whopping $239 billion. They’ve cost the National Football League a pretty penny as well. In some cases, we’re talking millions of dollars for a single settlement. In the past, some of the league’s most recognized franchises have been slapped with hefty lawsuits, mainly by their own players and staff! From contract disputes to concussion-related lawsuits and cover-ups, here are the 32 worst, and weirdest, NFL lawsuits for every NFL team. Sit back and read about the craziness that is the National Football League.
1. ARIZONA CARDINALS
In 2014, four former Arizona Cardinals football players sued their old team, claiming they suffered brain damage and other neurological effects from concussions. Roy Green, J.T. Smith, Derek Kennard and Edward Scott alleged that the National Football League ignored decades of warnings associated with repeated blows to the head. This is something the NFL denied for years.
Final Verdict: The NFL settled the lawsuit with former players for $1 billion, and the federal court has given final approval for payment. Between 1,000 and 1,500 players are eligible for payments now, and each player diagnosed with ALS could receive up to $5 million.
2. ATLANTA FALCONS
We all know that Michael Vick has quite the troubled past. From accusations of sexual assault to dog fighting, he’s considered the “bad boy” of the NFL. In fact, his own team, the Atlanta Falcons, sued him in 2007 in order to recover $20 million from his signing bonus. The team alleged that Vick used the bonus money to pay for his illegal dog-fighting operation.
Final Verdict: The case was eventually sent to arbitration, and an arbitrator ruled that Vick had to reimburse the Falcons for $19.97 million.
3. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Who remembers Ray Rice?! The three-time Pro Bowl player filed a lawsuit against the NFL for wrongful termination. Video evidence showed Rice knocking out his ex-fiancée, Janay, in an elevator in 2014. Oddly enough, criminal charges were dismissed after he completed a pre-trial intervention program. The Baltimore Ravens ultimately suspended Rice for two weeks.
Rice then sued the team for $3.5 million in back pay, which was the amount he would’ve made for the final 15 weeks after serving his two-game NFL suspension.
Final Verdict: In 2015, Ray Rice was awarded nearly $2 million in a wrongful termination settlement.
4. BUFFALO BILLS
In the 1970’s, O.J. Simpson was considered one of the top running backs for the Buffalo Bills. After his football career, though, his life took a turn for the worst. In 1994, the entire world watched his criminal trial when he was accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. Although he was found not guilty, the victims’ families sued Simpson in civil court for the murders and won.
Final Verdict: During the civil trial, a jury found Simpson liable for the killings and ordered him to pay more than $33.5 million in damages. Currently, he is serving time in a Nevada prison for a 2007 armed robbery that occurred at the Palace Station hotel-casino.
5. CAROLINA PANTHERS
A Carolina Panthers fan is actually suing the Dallas Cowboys security team for reportedly CHOKING HIM during a game. The fan was at a game where the Panthers were playing the Cowboys in Dallas, TX. The fan claims he was holding up a sign that marked the team’s undefeated record when things somehow turned violent in the stands. Video allegedly shows Small struggling with several security guards—including one who reportedly had his hand around Small’s neck. He is now suing stadium security for $25,000 in damages.
Final Verdict: The case has yet to be decided as it was only filed a couple months ago. Stay tuned.
6. CHICAGO BEARS
The Chicago Bears fielded what may be one of the finest teams ever in 1980s. In 1986 they rode a suffocating defense all the way to a Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, many Chicago Bears now say they have suffered from very serious health problems due to hits taken during their playing careers. Players like Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne also claim they were given illegal pain killers and narcotics while injured to continue playing. More than 500 players are now suing the NFL, alleging that these illegally supplied drugs have now led to medical problems later in their life.
Final Verdict: Although the lawsuit was filed in 2014, nothing has yet been decided.
7. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Ever wonder how much NFL cheerleaders get paid? Well, the Bengals cheerleaders apparently get paid $2.85 an hour. The team’s cheerleaders filed a lawsuit against the team for unpaid hours between the 2011-2013 seasons. One of the cheerleaders, Alexa Brenneman, claimed she was only paid $855 dollars for over 300 hours of work. The lawsuit was filed for $255,000.
Final Verdict: The Bengals decided to pay their cheerleaders.
8. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Jim Brown was an amazing running back for the Cleveland Browns in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 2013, he sued Electronic Arts (we all know you play Madden) and alleged the company illegally used his likeness in its NFL Madden games. He accused the company of also violating his right of publicity.
Final Verdict: Brown won his case for $600,000.
9. DALLAS COWBOYS
You won’t believe this one. A Dallas Cowboys fan is suing the NFL for $88 BILLION after a controversial catch by player Dez Bryant. Huh? Terrance Hendrix, an INMATE at a Colorado correctional, alleges pain and suffering after the NFL overturned the catch during the playoffs, CBSDFW.com reports. He also alleges fraud and gross negligence on the NFL’s part. According to Hendrix, the damages sought is owed to “all the cheerleaders, fans, of and all people in or from the sovereign Republic of Texas.” Divided by the amount of people in Texas (26.4 million), they would each receive over $3,000.
Final Verdict: The play is under review…Terrance is still in prison.
10. DENVER BRONCOS
Sometimes it seems like everyone on the Denver Broncos organization is in some sort of legal trouble. The list goes on and on. TJ Ward, an awesome safety, was charged with assaulting a bartender at a strip club for not being able to purchase drinks or food. This is nowhere near the end of the Broncos legal troubles, as this list shows.
Final Verdict: Most of these cases are rather small, and settlements and verdicts largely haven’t been made public. But Denver legal trouble seems to be a thing. Something is going on in Denver.
11. DETROIT LIONS
Ndamukong Suh is considered by many to be one of the dirtiest players in football. The Lions fans enjoyed their time with him when he was on the field, but off the field he caused nothing but problems. During a two-game suspension for STOMPING on a player, Suh was sued for over $1 million for causing a car accident in his home state of Oregon in 2012. This was just one of the off-the-field issues the Lions had to deal with. Suh has also been fined eight times in his career for very “unsportsmanlike” plays and suspended twice for causing intentional harm to other players. The lawsuit was just one of the many problems Suh faced in Detroit. Now he’s in Miami. We hope he doesn’t cause too much trouble.
Final Verdict: In 2013, Suh settled the lawsuit for $130,000.
12. GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers have a very loyal fan base. In fact, many will travel far distances just to see their favorite team play. However, a class action lawsuit may prompt some fans to stay home from now on. In 2016, the Packers were scheduled to open up the NFL pre-season against the Colts during the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame game. Fans traveled to Canton, Ohio where the game was cancelled (due to poor turf conditions). The fans say they paid good money for travel expenses and now want to be reimbursed. The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages.
Final Verdict: No answers yet, but we expect Packers fans to be reimbursed someway, somehow. After all, they do own the team.
13. HOUSTON TEXANS
Brett Hartmann, a former punter and kickoff specialist, signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in July 2011. He played in the first 12 games last season before tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament and fracturing a bone. In 2012, he sued the county agency that operates Reliant Stadium, blaming “unsafe turf” for a career-ending knee injury. The Texans used real grass in their old stadium. The team’s new stadium now uses AstroTurf which is supposed to be better for the players. This all comes a little too late for Hartmann and his left knee, unfortunately.
Final Verdict: The outcome of this lawsuit remains tight-lipped. Even a search of the case records online yields “nada.” If we had to guess, the folks at Reliant Stadium probably punted and Brett walked away with a settlement.
14. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
In 2015, Texas A&M University sued the Indianapolis Colts in an attempt to stop the National Football League team from using the phrase “12th man” to describe its fans.
The Colts weren’t exactly going overboard with using the phrase, however. The phrase barely shows up when reviewing the franchise’s history. However, the Colts did recently try to sell “12th man blankets” which led to Aggies (what we strangely call Texas A&M people) to writing letters and informing the Colts franchise of their wrongful use of a trademarked phrase. There has been no dollar amount asked for by Texas A&M, but we’ll be curious how much the Colts use this phrase this season. You might be asking, “What about the Seahawks? They use the “12th man” phrase, too!”
Well, Unlike the Colts, the Seahawks have a licensing agreement with Texas A&M.
Final Verdict: The Colts agreed to stop using the “12th Man” phrase and had until Aug. 15, 2016 to remove it from Lucas Oil Stadium.
15. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
This is your reminder that sadly, anyone can file a lawsuit for absolutely anything.
Blake Bortles, an up-and-coming QB for the Jaguars, had a ridiculous lawsuit filed against him in 2014. Theodore Bridgewater and David Rothrock, Pennsylvania inmates, claim that Bortles is using steroids and is also HIV positive. This filing seems to be an attempt at getting Bortles suspended from the league and eventually his career ruined. Nothing has come of this lawsuit.
Final Verdict: No points on the board. Final score, 0-0.
16. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Did you know the Chiefs are being sued following the brutal death of a fan outside of Arrowhead Stadium? Kyle Van Winkle died after he was beaten to death after a December 2013 game. Police say he mistakenly got into a vehicle that looked a lot like his. The vehicle’s owner, Joshua T. Bradley, found Van Winkle and police say a struggle ensued. Bradley was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but served no jail time. Seeking unspecified damages, the lawsuit, which was filed in 2016, blames a lack of adequate security in the parking lot at the time Van Winkle was beaten during an altercation. Final Verdict: This outcome of this lawsuit is still pending in court. The lawyers who filed the legal complaint says their goal is to make Arrowhead safer for fans. The Chiefs have declined to comment.
17. LOS ANGELES RAMS
In January 2016, NFL owners voted to relocate the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
Some fans weren’t thrilled about the move, and sued shortly after the relocation announcement. Some of the fans accuse the owners of deceiving Rams fans about their intention to relocate so the Rams could continue to sell merchandise and tickets. They say this is in violation of Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act. Season ticket holders and merchandise marts have also joined the suit.
Final Verdict: The lawsuit is pending, but we’d wager that money gets exchanged in the near future.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS
O.J. McDuffie, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, sued a former team doctor for negligence and malpractice over treatment for a serious toe injury he originally suffered in 1999. He has had two surgeries on the toe since 1999 and was released by the Dolphins on Feb. 28, 2002 after nine years with the team. McDuffie officially retired in August of 2002.
Final Verdict: A Miami-Dade Circuit jury returned a verdict in McDuffie’s favor after a 2.5 week trial in 2010. He was awarded $11.5 million.
19. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Here’s an example of “photo-bombing” gone awry. This year, the Vikings finished building the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium which opened just in time for the team to play the Green Bay Packers. It’s also the home of the 2018 Super Bowl. Wells Fargo, a national bank, has buildings right near that stadium. Seeing a great marketing opportunity, the bank decided to make huge illuminated signs to put on their rooftops earlier this year. The Vikings weren’t exactly thrilled by the move. They claim the sign violated the bank’s contract with the team. For anyone with kids today, they also claim the sign is an attempt to “photo bomb” the new stadium. The Vikings sought an immediate injunction against the bank.
Final Verdict: In June 2016, a judge ordered Wells Fargo to remove the signs as well as pay for the team’s legal fees.
20. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
We all heard about “Deflategate.” You either love and respect the Patriots, or you think Tom Brady and his coach are cheaters. Many Pat fans want to stick it back at the NFL. Some fans sued the NFL for taking away the team’s first-round pick this year as well as their fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft as punishment. They blame the league for “intentionally inflicting emotional distress.” Patriots fans also argued they had a legal interest in the NFL restoring the Patriots’ first-round pick and that the NFL violated that interest.
Final Verdict: Tom Brady served his 4 game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season, and is no longer trying to appeal the case. The Patriots also lost their first round draft pick. Deflate gate is history.
21. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Dubbed the “Bountygate” scandal, members of the New Orleans Saints franchise were accused of paying out bonuses or bounties for intentionally injuring opposing team players between 2009 and 2011. None of the hits in question were ever penalized or deemed illegal by in-game officials. Ultimately, head coach Sean Payton and several players were still suspended, and the team was fined $500,000. The Saints were also forced to forfeit their second-round draft selections in 2012 and 2013. The case got uglier when the NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of the three suspended players accused of being bounty ringleaders. The lawsuit accused the NFL of violating the labor agreement by determining the players participated in a bounty system before serving as an arbitrator at their hearing.
Final Verdict: The status of the lawsuit remains unclear.
22. NEW YORK GIANTS
Sometimes the media will do just about anything for a story, and that’s exactly what ESPN’s Adam Schefter did. According to media reports, he illegally obtained Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records and then disclosed the private information to millions of his followers in July 2015. This was not okay with Paul, however. Paul is now suing Schefter and the network. Meanwhile, lawyers for ESPN and Schefter have asked the judge to toss the case, citing First Amendment protections.
Final Verdict: In August 2016, a judge denied ESPN’s motion to dismiss Jason Pierre-Paul’s lawsuit. The case is expected to go to trial soon.
23. NEW YORK JETS
The Bengals cheerleaders aren’t the only ones who’ve had to deal with crappy pay—so have the cheerleaders of the New York Jets. According to the ladies, they were only paid $150 a game and weren’t paid at all for practices. The cheerleaders decided to take action by filing a lawsuit in 2014 for $325,000 of unpaid work. Keep in mind the Jets are worth $2 billion and make over $380 million a year.
Final Verdict: In January 2016, a New Jersey court approved a $325,000 settlement between the cheerleaders and the Jets. There is also likely going to be protections against cheerleader exploitation passed soon.
24. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Bill Romanowski is loved by many, but he is also considered one of the dirtiest players to ever play in the NFL, just like Suh. In August 2003, a fight broke out between Romanowski and Marcus Williams. Both played for the Oakland Raiders. Sadly, Williams got punched in the face and had a severed left eye socket. He claims it also shortened his memory, caused depression and ultimately ended his career early. Williams was sued Romanowski for millions.
Final Verdict: In 2005, Williams was awarded $40,000 in medical expenses and $300,000 for lost wages — about one season’s salary.
25. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Reggie White was once an absolutely dominant player for the Eagles, and a monster on defense. Constantly leading the league in sacks, he caused absolute havoc on the field. Unfortunately, the Eagles didn’t want to pay their star player. White traveled the country attempting to find a new employer, but felt the NFL owners were colluding against the players, even after the salary cap. White played a key role in player free agency — he was one of the plaintiffs in a 1992 lawsuit that opened up free agency and that led to the current system. Final Verdict: The settlement of Reggie White v. NFL in 1993 provided true free agency to players and created the salary cap and salary floor. Sadly, Reggie died from a heart attack in 2004.
26. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Everyone knows Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback. But did you know he’s been accused of sexual assault – twice in one year. One of the alleged victims, a Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino host, claimed the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback raped her while he was visiting Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament in 2008. A year later she sued Roethlisberger and alleged he lured her into his penthouse suite and forced her to have sex.
Final Verdict: In 2011, Roethlisberger settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. He was never charged with a crime in both cases.
27. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
One thing you can never underestimate about Chargers fans is their love for their team. Owners of the team have recently been pushing to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles. This would bring them more money, more players, and … more money. Chargers fans, however, are against the move. In 2015, they filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the Chargers to keep the team in San Diego. The fans claim they are the reason for the Chargers’ success. If the team leaves, years of financial support from the fans would be unfair if not illegal.
Final Verdict: The team remains in San Diego…for now, and the St. Louis Rams relocated to LA. But who knows what will happen next?
28. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
According to a disabled ticket holder, the 49ers security team booted him and his service dog out of the stadium in Nov. 2014. The fan claims he suffered a minor seizure during the incident due to high stress levels in his body. The service dog was there to warn people of his seizures, and to help him get around. In January 2016, the fan sued the 49ers for $10 million.
Final Verdict: The 49ers have no comments on the allegations, and the case is still pending.
29. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Citing economic discrimination, a 49ers fan named John E. Williams filed a $50 million lawsuit against the NFL in 2014 over the Seattle Seahawks’ limitations on who could purchase NFC title tickets for the January game between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. He claimed there was no way to purchase tickets to the NFC championship game due to “economic discrimination.” The Seahawks limited ticket sales to only a few specific states. This did not include Nevada, where Williams resides.
Final Verdict: Yet to be determined, but most observers think Williams will be “offsides” on this one.
30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEARS
Ever heard of Lawrence Tynes? Well, he was a talented kicker for the Bucs. However, he’s currently suing the team for $20 MILLION SMACKERS. Tynes claims he got MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and the infection ended his football career. Tynes alleges in a 2015 lawsuit that the Bucs created and failed to warn him about the unsanitary conditions that could cause MRSA. Tynes said: “I left that facility on my own and found a doctor in town and said, ‘Can you look at my toe because I think all the doctors at the Bucs are lying to me.”
Turns out, they may have been. The doctor immediately diagnosed him with the potentially deadly infection.
Final Verdict: Our bet is Tynes will likely get his money, but stay tuned for the final score.
31. TENNESSEE TITANS
In 2013, the team’s founder, Bud Adams, passed away at the age of 90. Now litigation over ownership structure could be looming between the NFL and Titans. The team is currently trying to persuade the league office that the ownership structure following Adams’ death complies with all applicable rules and provisions. However, the NFL isn’t convinced. It has caused some to speculate that the Adams family may sell the team. They’ve reportedly already hired a lawyer to defend them in court, if necessary. The team is valued at $1.16 billion.
Final Verdict: This situation is still ongoing. It’s unclear what will happen next – stay tuned.
32. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
The name “Redskin” for this storied franchises has long been a source of debate and controversy. . Some argue that the word is racially offensive to Native Americans. Other people believe the name is historic and the name should stay. There have been multiple lawsuits against the name and logo over the past few years. Even though the majority of fans like the name, there are continuing efforts to change the team’s name as well as mascot.
Final verdict: The judge finally made a final decision, allowing the team to keep its name and logo.
Do you have any updated cases you think should be apart of this piece? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Pictured: Arizona Cardinals (Via Michael Wifall/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Michael Vick (Via SRA Moses Ross/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Ray Rice (Via Wallstreethotrod/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: O.J. Simpson (Via Gerald Johnson/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Chicago Bears (Via Paul Cutler/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Bengals cheerleaders (Via Team Spirit/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Jim Brown (Via Erik Drost/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Terrance Hendrix (Via Colorado Dept. of Corrections)
Pictured: Von Miller (Via Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Ndamukong Suh (Via Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Green Bay Packers (Via Jame Healy/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Brett Hartmann (Via Kohl’s Kicking Camps/YouTube)
Pictured: Indianapolis Colts (Via Paul J. Everett/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Blake Bortles (Via Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Kyle Van Winkle, murder victim
Pictured: LA Rams Via Wikimedia Commons
Pictured: O.J. McDuffie (Via OPENSports.com/Wikimedia Commons
Pictured: U.S. Bank Stadium (Via Darb02/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: New England Patriots (Via Bonnie/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Sean Payton (Via Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Jason Pierre-Paul (Via Mike Morbeck/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: New York Jets cheerleaders (Via Peter Galvin/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Bill Romanowski (Via enlewof/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Reggie White (Via Jeff Phelps/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Ben Roethlisberger (Via Paula Lively/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: San Diego Chargers (Via Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: San Francisco 49ers (Via John Martinez Pavliga/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Seattle Seahawks (Via Mike Morbeck/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Lawrence Tynes (Via Stephen Luke/Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Bud Adams (Via Wikimedia Commons)
Pictured: Washington Redskins (Via dbking/Wikimedia Commons)