New York (AP) The National Football League’s Players Association is suing ESPN, claiming the sports cable network violated antitrust laws by favoring NFL teams over other teams in its ratings.
The NFLPA filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, arguing that ESPN violated antitrust law by paying more money to teams than it would have given to the networks’ other teams.
The lawsuit says that ESPN “willfully and intentionally” favored NFL teams to get more viewers than other teams and “will be liable for all payments made to NFL teams.”
ESPN declined to comment.
The suit seeks a court order requiring ESPN to pay $6 billion to each NFL team over the next five years, including any payments to former players who retired.
It also seeks a declaration that ESPN is not a monopoly and that the network has no right to prevent competitors from selling advertising.
The legal fight comes at a time when the NFL has struggled to find its footing following a spate of player protests over police violence and racial inequality.
The league has been on a downward trend, losing two of its first four Super Bowls and falling into the bottom 10 in viewers.
Its average viewership of 13.2 million in 2016 was the lowest since the 2002 season, when the league lost three of four regular-season games.
ESPN’s ratings have increased by more than 25 percent over that same time period.
The antitrust suit follows similar ones filed in New York and California in March by the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.