Judge reverses field, orders Goodell deposition

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge reversed an earlier ruling and said Wednesday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can be questioned by attorneys for ticket-holders who sued after they were displaced when seats weren’t properly installed for the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

The ruling issued Wednesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver in Dallas states that Goodell must give a deposition at NFL headquarters in New York no later than Aug. 5.

About 1,250 temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington were deemed unsafe just hours before the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. That forced about 850 ticket-holders to move to new seats, and 400 others to watch from standing-room locations.

In February, Toliver granted an NFL motion to quash any deposition by Goodell, saying plaintiffs’ attorneys hadn’t met the threshold requiring a chief executive to testify.

Toliver granted the request in the latest order after attorneys argued that depositions from lower-ranking executives backed their claim that Goodell had firsthand knowledge of some facts as “the only NFL executive known to Plaintiffs who has gone on record and admitted fault and mistakes on behalf of the NFL in relation to the temporary seating.”

The NFL declined comment on the ruling, as did an attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Avenatti.

The order limited the scope of questions, but did include Goodell’s involvement in “any attempt or goal to break the NFL’s Super Bowl attendance record.”

The commissioner can be questioned about statements he made involving temporary seating, the stadium’s giant video board and affected fans as long as the statements aren’t subject to attorney-client privilege. He also can be quizzed about any communications he had with affected fans.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim Goodell was “actively and personally involved” in Super Bowl planning and that he “hyped” the video board before the game. Many fans in temporary seats had no view of the board.

Toliver’s ruling came a day after another federal judge in Dallas denied class-action status for the lawsuit. The Dallas Cowboys were originally named as a defendant, but were dismissed from the lawsuit a year ago.

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