Q. I read that we may get Sunday Ticket refunds pretty soon because of a lawsuit that the Supreme Court had something to do with. What’s the deal here? When do you expect the refunds to come? — Xavier, Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Xavier, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear petitions from the NFL and DIRECTV (via AT&T) to reject a class action lawsuit against both for allegedly overcharging for the NFL Sunday Ticket. In 2019, a lower court ruled the lawsuit could proceed after a 2017 decision in yet another court said it could not. The case was originally filed in 2015 by various bars, restaurants and residential subscribers to the package of out-of-market games which starts at $294 a season.

The suit charges that the Sunday Ticket has been overpriced because the league and DIRECTV have created an exclusive product that’s only available via one company. While it’s true that the Ticket is a DIRECTV exclusive, the NFL and satcaster have argued in the courts that the deal between the two has been up for renewal several times over its 26-year history. During those renegotiations, any provider theoretically could have successfully bid for the contract.

Several publications yesterday wrote stories suggesting the Supreme Court’s ruling to permit the lawsuit to proceed could mean imminent refunds for Sunday Ticket subscribers. The articles speculate that the NFL and DIRECTV (AT&T) might try to settle the case before it goes any further.

However, there’s nothing to support that theory. The Supreme Court’s ruling did not include language that would suggest it approves of the lawsuit; it simply issued a ‘denial of certiorari,” which means it can go forward.

And what’s a denial of certiorari?

“A decision to deny certiorari does not necessarily imply that the higher court agrees with the lower court’s ruling; instead, it simply means that fewer than four justices determined that the circumstances of the decision of the lower court warrant a review by the Supreme Court,” writes the Cornell Law Review.

In fact, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a statement saying the NFL and DIRECTV “have substantial arguments on the law. If the defendants do not prevail at summary judgment or at trial, they may raise those legal arguments again (before the Supreme Court).”

Consequently, there’s no reason for the NFL and DIRECTV to settle now. The two organizations likely feel their case is as strong as ever.

The lawsuit also could still take years to resolve, returning again to the U.S. Supreme Court as Justice Kavanaugh inferred.

So, Xavier, don’t hold your breath for that Sunday Ticket refund. It’s not coming anytime soon, and it might never come.

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— Phillip Swann