More than a month after being sued by NFL Properties for $300 million, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones returned the favor yesterday by filing a $750 million antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Properties, the league's licensing arm.
Jones, along with the Cowboys and the Texas Stadium Corp., filed suit in Federal District Court in New York, asking the court to dismantle the "unlawful cartel" used by the NFL to market the trademarks and logos of league clubs.
Jones, one of three NFL owners who also owns the stadium in which his team plays, negotiated independent stadium sponsorship deals with Nike, Dr Pepper, Pepsi and American Express earlier this season. The agreements were challenged by NFL Properties, which charged that they conflicted with existing league-wide sponsorship deals. NFL clubs share revenue equally no matter how individual teams are doing on or off the field. In his suit, Jones said the NFL "has illegally restrained trade and allowed NFL Properties to exercise monopoly power in the business of marketing pro football sponsorships and licenses."
Jones wants NFL clubs to own the right to license their trademarks and logos and individually determine the apparel and trademarks worn by players, coaches and others along the sideline.
"It's ironic when on a day when the Cleveland Browns announce they're leaving Cleveland because of their stadium situation, the NFL is continuing to challenge the Cowboys and Texas Stadium," Jones said before last night's game. "We're showing the NFL how to take a relatively old stadium and, with hustle and marketing, make it a valuable, self-sustaining sports venue. The NFL should be studying the Texas Stadium model, not attacking it." Staff writer Leonard Shapiro contributed to this report from Dallas.