Appeals court upholds rejection of Bengals stadium suit


An antitrust suit claiming officials and
taxpayers were pushed into financing a new stadium to keep the Bengals in

Cincinnati was filed
after time had run out, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 6th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously agreed with a
federal district judge who dismissed the suit filed by

against the Bengals and the NFL because it was not filed within a four-year
statute of limitations.

voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike in 1996 for the $450 million Paul
Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000. A 30-year lease was signed in 1997. The
antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2003.

dismissing the suit, the courts didn’t rule on the county officials’ claims
that they were victimized by monopoly power. Appeals Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton
wrote that the 6th Circuit panel didn’t need to decide whether there is an
antitrust problem with the NFL’s control over its number of teams and cities.

added: “The county, like all local governments competing to attract
professional sports teams, understood this reality long before it entered the
May 1997 lease and understood the leveraging truth that goes with it: The only
thing worse than having a losing team is having no team — no team for the
community and its political leaders to support and no reason to say: ’There’s
always next year.”’


commissioner Todd Portune, who
initiated the lawsuit, said officials would consult with their attorneys, but
were unlikely to pursue further legal appeals in their effort to get a more
equitable deal with the Bengals.

Bengals called the ruling a vindication for the club and the NFL.

“The final
chapter has been written on the lawsuit … and as a community, we can now turn
toward solving today’s challenges,” Mike Brown, Bengals owner and president,
said in a statement.

spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the latest ruling.

In its
appeal, the county contended officials were misled into thinking that the
Bengals’ finances were so bleak they needed a new stadium to survive, and
didn’t find out until 2001 that the team was profitable. The appeals court
cited many earlier reports and comments about the Bengals’ profitability and
about NFL tactics in gaining new stadiums and favorable leases.

“With red
flags flying, the county instead moved forward with negotiations and signed the
stadium lease,” the court said.

While the
Bengals finished their first season in the new stadium with a 4-12 record, the
court said, “It is Hamilton County that claims it was the real loser because it
signed a lease with the Bengals for the stadium that it now calls

said the court rulings are disappointing because they don’t decide the key

“It seems
that every judicial authority that has taken a look at this agreed that it is a
terrible deal. But rather than acting on those aspects, they have instead hung
their hats on a technicality,” he said.

He said
the stadium terms have helped push the county into a financial crunch, facing
deficits of $200 million or more.

appellate opinion recounted the history of pro football in
saying the Cincinnati Celts were the first team in 1921, “long before Ickey
Woods shuffled across the end zone, long before Kenny Anderson and Boomer
Esiason led the Bengals to Super Bowls XVI and XXIII (a team from another
circuit, the

San Francisco
49ers, won both games).”

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