Antitrust Bowl: Jets vs. Cablevision

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Cablevision Systems Corp. is facing an antitrust trial over its efforts to derail the creation of the New York Sports and Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side.

The National Football League’s New York Jets -- who would have moved to a stadium in that area -- alleged in the suit that Cablevision and its Madison Square Garden subsidiary “spent tens of millions of dollars to block construction of the NYSCC in order to maintain the company's monopoly on sports and entertainment events in Manhattan.”

The Jets’ stadium would have been located just blocks from MSG.

Cablevision had sought to have the case dismissed, claiming that its alleged refusal to air ads supporting the project, its filing of successive lawsuits and its bid for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side Rail Yards -- over which the Jets’ facility would have been built -- were all immune from antitrust liability under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which protects certain governmental-petitioning activities.

“If it becomes apparent that Cablevision indeed sought to acquire the West Side Rail Yards for its own development project, defendants will likely be entitled to protection under Noerr-Pennington,” United States District Court Judge Harold Baer said in a prepared statement. “However, if the Jets can establish that Cablevision never intended to acquire the property but submitted a bid only to impede the Jets' progress, immunity will be unavailable.”

Judge Baer also upheld the claim that Cablevision refused to air pro-stadium advertisements and coerced other television outlets to follow suit. And the judge refused to dismiss claims that Cablevision filed successive frivolous lawsuits in order to delay construction of the NYSCC and that the company's conduct constituted tortious interference and deceptive trade practices in violation of New York State law.

“This is overall a resounding victory for the Jets,” David Boies, the football team’s attorney, said in a prepared statement. “The court has reaffirmed that monopolists like Cablevision cannot, without further scrutiny, hide behind political-protection doctrines and free-speech rights to immunize their anticompetitive conduct.”

“The West Side stadium matter was resolved in June,” an MSG spokesperson said. “The MTA has taken the land back from the Jets, the people of New York have moved on and it is time for the Jets and their lawyers to move on, too.”

The trial date was set for August.

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