Packers CEO Mark Murphy addresses massive Sunday Ticket verdict

In the nine days since a $4.7 billion verdict was entered against the NFL in the Sunday Ticket class action, no owner of any team has said anything about the outcome.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy has.

In his monthly column during which he answers five fan questions, Murphy chose to address a question seeking his thoughts on the biggest loss the NFL has ever taken in court.

“This was obviously big news last week,” Murphy writes. “I was disappointed in the verdict and know that we will appeal the decision. I would also echo the sentiments that the league expressed in its statement: ‘We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict today in the NFL Sunday Ticket trial class action lawsuit. We continue to believe that our media distribution strategy, which features all games broadcast on free over-the-air television in the markets of the participating teams and national distribution of our most popular games, supplemented by many additional choices including Red Zone, Sunday Ticket and NFL+, is by far the most fan friendly distribution model in all of sports and entertainment. We will certainly contest this decision as we believe that the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit. We thank the jury for their time and service and for the guidance and oversight from Judge Gutierrez throughout the trial.'”

Murphy ultimately didn’t say much. But why say anything? Why give credence to a very bad outcome for the NFL that has been, in the grand scheme of things, ignored? Why even mention it at all?

Murphy’s decision to acknowledge the verdict in his column gives Packers fans who might not have even heard about the case reason to start poking around. To start reading about the case. To start piecing together the reality that, with or without antitrust liability, the NFL deliberately overcharged for the Sunday Ticket package, picking the pockets of displaced Packers fans who were willing to pay whatever it took to watch the team play — and freezing out any frozen tundra aficionados who lacked the disposable income to buy a variety pack of 32 cheeses when they were only interested in Wisconsin’s finest.

The league office can’t be thrilled about this. When it comes to the Sunday Ticket trial, less is more. Beyond the $14 billion that the league might have to pay, the NFL runs the risk of consumers realizing that the league has been gouging those who prefer out-of-market viewing in order to protect the money that comes from the networks that feed one game at a time (and at most three games on any given Sunday) to local markets from sea to shining sea.

Of course, this won’t be Murphy’s problem. He’s retiring in a year. When all appeals are exhausted, it will be for his successor to figure out how to come up with $441 million.

And if/when the league decides it has no choice but to let the Sunday Ticket partner charge whatever it wants, Murphy won’t have to fret about what that could do to the fees paid by CBS and Fox.