Are The New York Giants, The New York Jets, And MetLife Stadium Misleading Consumers About Their Connection To New York?

Gunnar Larson g at
Tue Jan 10 09:54:05 PST 2023

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This time of year, I spend a lot of my time working on Super Bowl-related
advertising. So, it seems like a perfect time to blog about football.

Is it misleading for the New York Giants and the New York Jets to have "New
York" in their team names when they actually play in MetLife Stadium, which
is located in East Rutherford, New Jersey? And is it misleading for MetLife
Stadium to use a New York City skyline image in its logo? Those were some
of the key issues in a recent false advertising lawsuit in federal court in
New York (yes, actually in New York).

The Giants have played in New Jersey since 1976 and the Jets have played
there since 1984. Notwithstanding this, two consumers -- both New York City
residents, by the way -- sued the NFL, the Giants and the Jets, and MetLife
Stadium, alleging false advertising and other claims, on the grounds that
that they didn't realize that the teams played across the river in New
Jersey and that MetLife Stadium was, in fact, located in New Jersey. The
plaintiffs also asserted additional false advertising claims related to
statements that appeared on the stadium's website, including that it is
"the number one stadium in the world," that it "hosts the World's Biggest
Events, on the World's Biggest Stage," that it "sets the standard for venue
excellence," that the stadium is under 20 minutes from New York City, and
that the stadium is accessible to Penn Station.

In order to state a claim for false advertising under New York law, a
plaintiff must prove that the defendant engaged in deceptive or materially
misleading acts or practices. It's not enough to allege that a statement
"might conceivably be misunderstood by some few consumers." Rather, a
plaintiff must allege that the acts or practices were "likely to mislead a
reasonable consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances."

The defendants here moved to dismiss the false advertising claims, arguing
(among other things) that the alleged misrepresentations were not
misleading to reasonable consumers. And the magistrate judge, in a report
and recommendation to the District Court, agreed. Here's why.

First, the court held that "no reasonable football fan, 'acting reasonably
under the circumstances,' would conclude from the names and logos of the
Jets and the Giants that their stadium is within the five boroughs of New
York City." The court explained that it is common for professional sports
teams to name themselves after the city they call home, even while playing
in the suburbs of that city (or even further away). The court gave, as
examples, the Washington Redskins (who played in Maryland), the San
Francisco 49ers (who played in Santa Clara), and the New York Giants
themselves (who played in New Haven, Connecticut for two years). The court
concluded, "As these and similar examples demonstrate, there is nothing
misleading -- in the context of professional football -- about the
long-standing names and logos of the Giants and the Jets."

Second, the court also didn't think that the MetLife Stadium's logo --
which features a version of the New York City skyline -- was confusing. The
court pointed to a number of examples on the stadium's website which
indicated that the stadium was located in New Jersey. For example, the site
indicated that there was "NJ Transit rail station" located in front of the
stadium and there was a map link on the site which showed that the stadium
was located just off the New Jersey turnpike. The court explained, "A
reasonable consumer (even if she did not click through to Google Maps)
would understand that New Jersey Transit goes to New Jersey, and that the
New Jersey Turnpike is in New Jersey."

Third, the court determined that statements that MetLife Stadium is "the
number one stadium in the world" and that it "sets the standard for venue
excellence" are non-actionable puffery, since they are each a "general
claim of superiority over comparable products that is so vague that it can
be understood as nothing more than a mere expression of opinion." The court
also held -- without much explanation -- that the statements, "hosts the
World's Biggest Events," "has the World's Biggest Stage," and "has topped
the industry charts annually since opening," were also puffery (though I
could imagine another court struggling over these specific claims a bit

And, finally, the court also found that the claims that the stadium is
"under 20 minutes from New York City" and that it is "accessible to Penn
Station" were also not misleading. The court said that the website didn't
promise a 20 minute travel time, but instead just estimated that travel
would take under 20 minutes (which the court felt was apparently pretty
close to the actual 30 minute travel time that the plaintiffs experienced).
The court also wasn't troubled by the claim that the stadium is accessible
to Penn Station, since all consumers needed to do was to change trains in

Are there any important take-aways here -- or is this just an entertaining
case? It's probably mostly just an entertaining case, but here are a few
things to think about.

One of the things that strikes me about how federal courts often approach
false advertising class actions is that it seems that they often bring a
fair degree of skepticism to them. Without saying so explicitly, they often
seem to be asking the question whether the case deserves to be heard (or
whether it's just a stupid case), regardless of the potential legal
arguments that could be made about whether particular claims are
misleading. Here, it seemed pretty clear that the court didn't really see
much merit in the claims, and without a lot of reasoning, was pretty
comfortable disposing of the plaintiffs' claims. For example, the court
seems to say that the MetLife Stadium's logo isn't misleading because
someone can review the stadium's website and figure out by clues on the
site (such as that it's near a New Jersey Transit station) that the stadium
is in New Jersey. Putting aside the question whether the logo is actually
misleading -- or communicating any specific claims at all -- if it were
actually communicating claims, there's really no basis in advertising law
for suggesting that a false claim can be cured by hunting for clues about
the meaning of the claim on the advertiser's website. As another example,
the court dismisses out of hand the plaintiffs' claim that it is misleading
for the stadium to advertise that it "hosts the World's Biggest Events,"
holding, without any real explanation, that the claim is puffery.
Regardless of how I might come out on this question, having recently been
at The Big House, I would at least have struggled a bit with the fact that
MetLife Stadium isn't the world's biggest football stadium or even the
biggest football stadium in the United States.

Another thing that struck me about the decision was that it was focused
more on whether the claims were misleading to reasonable consumers, rather
than on whether the claims were materially misleading. This isn't unique to
this decision. Often, it seems to me, when considering potentially
problematic claims, regulators and others often fail to sufficiently
consider whether a claim, even if misleading, simply isn't material to a
consumer's purchasing decision. Looking again at the statement, "hosts the
World's Biggest Events," for example, regardless of whether this may be a
false claim, could it possibly be material to a consumer's choice to attend
a Giants game whether the stadium holds 80,000 or 100,000 fans?

Finally, one important take-away from the decision is that the court --
when evaluating whether the team names were misleading -- considered the
claims in context. In other words, advertising claims shouldn't be judged
in isolation, without regard to who the intended audience is and what that
audience will understand the claims to communicate. Here, the court was
persuaded that sports fans in the United States understand -- based on
their own experience as sports fans here -- that the team's name doesn't
necessarily tell you where the team actually plays its games. Ever since I
was a little kid, I remember driving over the George Washington Bridge to
get to Giants games -- and the court's decision here supports the idea that
advertising claims must be interpreted in light of consumers' actual
experiences and their real world understanding of those claims.

Suero v. NFL, 2022 WL 17985657 (S.D.N.Y. 2022).
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