After nearly six years of sustained litigation, the US Supreme Court sports betting case could be decided anytime between Monday and the end of June.
In other words, the end is near. Finally.
Throughout the litigation pitting five sports leagues — the NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL, and Major League Baseball — against the governor of New Jersey and other state officials over the reach of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), there has been no shortage of attention-grabbing sound bites from both sides.
The five sports leagues have consistently argued that they are injured by sports betting and that PASPA prevents New Jersey from authorizing that wagering. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and current Gov. Phil Murphy have countered with the primary argument that PASPA is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment’s anti-commandeering doctrine.
From the leagues’ first PASPA lawsuit filed on August 7, 2012, to the Supreme Court’s December 4, 2017, oral argument, there have been dozens of on-the-record court hearings and depositions taken under oath. Transcripts for all the court proceedings, some of which are partially redacted, have been obtained by Legal Sports Report.
Unlike written briefs that allow for contemplation, unscripted court hearings and depositions sometimes lead to off-the-cuff comments that would never be included in any deliberative writing.
What was said in NJ sports betting case history
Here is a list — in chronological order — of the most memorable quotes from lawyers, judges, and sports league executives in various court proceedings leading up to the dispute landing on the Supreme Court’s steps.
No. 1: ‘The NFL would engage…”
“The NFL is a revenue-generating business. If the NFL believed that sports gambling would allow it to increase its revenue, the NFL would engage in that activity.”
Lawrence Ferazani, NFL senior labor litigation counsel, during a deposition on November 5, 2012, in New York City.
No. 2: ‘How does that benefit us?’
“We think the idea that any sportsbook can be helpful to us, again, is completely incorrect. It’s almost like saying we’ll create a problem and then we’ll tell you about it. And how does that benefit us?”
Thomas Ostertag, MLB senior vice president and general counsel, during a deposition on November 6, 2012 in New York City.
No. 3: ‘Deadliest of all things’
“[G]ambling on a sport, on any sport but on this sport is what you want to talk to me about, is I think the deadliest of all things that can happen. It’s evil, it creates doubt and destroys your sport.”
Allan “Bud” Selig, MLB commissioner, during a deposition on November 9, 2012, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
No. 4: ‘New Jersey has no idea what it’s doing’
“But the one thing that I’m certain of is that New Jersey has no idea what it’s doing and doesn’t care because all it’s interested in is making a buck or two, and they don’t care that it’s at our potential loss and wholly apart from the fact that a governor, who’s a former U.S. Attorney, has chosen to attack a federal law which causes me pause for completely different reasons since I’ve, at times, sworn to similar oaths about upholding the laws of the United States.”
David Stern, NBA commissioner, during a deposition on November 16, 2012, in New York City.
No. 5: ‘Inconceivable’
“Not to sound flip on this point but it’s inconceivable to me how we could lose this lawsuit…”
Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner, during a deposition on November 19, 2012, in New York City.
No. 6: ‘I don’t know’
“Is it preemption? Technically, I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Paul Fishman, United States Attorney, US Department of Justice, during Third Circuit oral argument on June 26, 2013.
No. 7: ‘Limited to the plaintiffs’ games’
“[T]he scope of [the injunction] is limited to the application that’s been put before the Court which is limited to the plaintiffs’ games.”
Michael Shipp, United States District Court judge, during a court hearing on October 24, 2014.
No. 8: ‘Orwellian concept’
“This is an Orwellian concept…a statute that was enacted to prohibit the spread, or limit the spread, of sports betting is somehow constitutional only if you allow it to take place everywhere in the state.”
Ted Olson, lead counsel for Gov. Christie and Gov. Murphy, during Third Circuit oral argument on March 17, 2015.
No. 9: ‘I want to channel Dr. Seuss’
“If you’ll permit me one moment of levity, my time is up, I said to my team, I want to channel Dr. Seuss, because he said in Horton Hears a Who! Something that I thought was applicable. ‘You meant what you said and you said what you meant and we followed your guidance 100 percent.’”
Michael Griffinger, lead counsel for the New Jersey legislature, during Third Circuit oral argument on March 17, 2015.
No. 10: ‘Christie III’
“[O]n behalf of my clients I’m really trying to prohibit, you know, prevent there from being a Christie III.”
Paul Clement, lead counsel for the NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL, and Major League Baseball, during Third Circuit oral argument on March 17, 2015.