New Jersey state senator Raymond Lesniak had not heard about the arm-wrestling tournament at a Las Vegas casino that the NFL was frowning upon — and for which the leaguereportedly was about to fine players for their participation. When he was told about it Monday morning, Lesniakcould not have sounded less surprised.
"Remember, they're playing right next door, right?"Lesniak cracked, not so subtly pointing out that the league almost unanimously approved the Raiders'move to Las Vegas just two weeks earlier.
"The problem is, they're going to get a piece of the action,"he added. "That’s the bottom line for the NFL. It always has been."
The other obvious irony of the NFL's reported decision about the arm-wrestling contest — as it applies to Lesniak and New Jersey — was that on Monday afternoon, lawyers for the state were scheduled to meet in Washington with the U.S. solicitor general’s office about taking their bid to legalize sports gambling there to the Supreme Court.
Among the sports organizations fighting New Jersey to stop it from betting on games is, of course, the NFL, starting long before it ever considering putting a team in Las Vegas and supporting a stadium there.
Lesniak and other supporters of the New Jersey bill have scoffed at every contradiction in the NFL’s case — its support of fantasy football, of daily fantasy sports and, now, its pending move to Las Vegas.
The plan to fine James Harrison, Marshawn Lynch and others, then, got the same reaction from the state senator who first introduced the sports gambling bill in 2014, saw Gov. Chris Christie sign it, and has seen the NFL and other leagues fight it all the way to the top.
Monday's meeting in Washington follows last summer’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL and NCAA, all of whom argue that New Jersey legalizing sports betting violates the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA).
Lesniak cited the rarity of cases even reaching the solicitor general’s attention, much less the Supreme Court’s, as “a very good sign” that the court will hear New Jersey’s case.
"We’re optimistic,"he said. "I don't know which way the solicitor general will weigh in — but I have to believe that move from Oakland to Las Vegas (by the Raiders) has to have a guttural impact on the NFL's cornerstone foundation of their argument.
"You would think, right?"
A decision on the Supreme Court taking the case would come about 30 days after Monday’s meeting, he said, and if accepted, the court — which swore in its ninth justice, Neil Gorsuch, earlier Monday — could hear it this summer.
In the meantime, Lesniak noted, the NFL’s choices keep poking holes in itslogic as the leaguetriesto shut down New Jersey’s efforts.
"It’s hard to believe that (commissioner Roger) Goodell — it’s still Goodell, right? — how he can wake up every morning and look himself in the mirror and not be ashamed."