Standout Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon has brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of NFL players against the fantasy sports website FanDuel. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, claims the site misuses player’s names and likenesses and exploits them without proper permissions or licenses. The lawsuit points out that Garcon’s name frequently appears in the commercials for FanDuel, yet he receives no compensation.
In a statement released by Garcon, he says that, “FanDuel has taken the liberty to engage in these actions without my consent and without proper licensing rights. As a result of these activities, FanDuel daily fantasy contests have shown increasing revenues leading to large profits.”
The lawsuit specifically points out that Garcon’s name appears throughout FanDuel commercials, including 53 times during one 28-minute infomercial.
And while it seems like FanDuel and competitor DraftKings go hand in hand with respect to fantasy sports, DraftKings is not named in Garcon’s lawsuit. DraftKings has a relationship with the NFL Players Association that allows the fantasy site to include players in its advertising. FanDuel has no such relationship.
In response to the lawsuit, FanDuel spokeswoman Justine Sacco said in a statement that, “We believe this suit is without merit. There is established law that fantasy operators may use player names and statistics for fantasy contests. FanDuel looks forward to continuing to operate our contests which sports fans everywhere have come to love.”
The FanDuel lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal challenges waged against the highly lucrative daily fantasy sports industry. Fantasy sports operators, particularly FanDuel and DraftKings, have attracted scrutiny since the industry launched a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz at the beginning of the NFL season. You cannot watch a game without enduring at least 10 commercials by the leaders in fantasy sports.
It now seems the marketing campaign might have had unintended consequences. Congress has called for hearings into the fantasy sports industry. The industry has also gotten the attention of regulators in many states.
It does not help the industry that it was recently revealed that FanDuel employees played fantasy sports on DraftKing and vice versa. The practice raises questions about insider information being used to win money. Specifically, lawsuits allege that a DraftKings employee won $350,000 from FanDuel after mistakenly publicizing fantasy data prior to the week’s NFL games.
The companies adamantly maintain their claim that customers’ use of their sites does not constitute gambling. They claim their sites are legal and that fantasy sports was exempted from a 2006 federal law prohibiting online gambling.
Garcon’s lawsuit marks the third class-action lawsuit filed against FanDuel in the past three weeks.