The Associated Press reports that an antitrust suit claiming officials and taxpayers were
pushed into financing a new stadium to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati was filed too late, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously agreed with a federal district judge who dismissed the suit filed by Hamilton County against the Bengals and the NFL because it was not filed within a four-year statute of limitations.
County voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike back in 1996 for the $450 million Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000. A 30-year lease was signed in 1997. The antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2003. By dismissing the suit, the courts didn’t specifically rule on the county officials’ claims that they were victimized by monopoly power. Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote that the court didn’t need to decide whether there is an antitrust problem with the NFL’s control on its number of teams and cities.
Sutton also added: “The county, like all local governments competing to attract professional sports teams, understood this reality long before it entered the May 1997 lease and understood the leveraging truth that goes with it: The only thing worse than having a losing team is having no team — no team for the community and its political leaders to support and no reason to say: ‘There’s always next year.’ “