July 31 is the next key date in the Sunday Ticket litigation

It went from being largely ignored to the biggest story in sports — even if many media outlets continue to downplay or ignore it.

The NFL, ordered to pay $4.696 billion in the Sunday Ticket class action. Which under federal antitrust law becomes $14.088 billion.

The litigation is far from over. There will be multiple appeals. The magnitude of the verdict makes it a certainty that the case will be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, by whichever side is holding the L after the first level of the appellate process.

The next key date is 32 days aways. Wednesday, July 31. That’s when Judge Philip Gutierrez will conduct a hearing on the NFL’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Based on his comments from earlier this month in open court, it’s possible that he’ll take the entire verdict, crumple it into a ball, and throw it in the trash.

It would be an incredible development. More than $14 billion changing hands in the blink of an eye.

He has the power to do it, even if it seems counterintuitive to many. Could it really happen? The NFL seems confident.

Whether Judge Gutierrez does it remains to be seen. It would have been far less conspicuous if he’d done it before the verdict was entered, and not after.

As previously noted, he didn’t rule on the motion before the verdict was entered. He might have been hoping that the jury would find in the NFL’s favor. Now that the jury has spoken, it will become much harder for the judge to take it away.

It would make more sense to approve the verdict and let the NFL make its arguments to the appeals court. Or maybe to the Supreme Court, where the NFL could benefit from the 6-3 pro-business imbalance.

Regardless of where the case ends up, July 31 is the next key day in the litigation. Riding on the outcome will be not only the $14.088 billion award but the question of whether the NFL and/or YouTube TV will feel compelled to make significant changes to the pricing and structure of Sunday Ticket.

And, yes, consumers should be rooting for those changes to be made. Regardless of whether the verdict sticks, we’ve learned that the NFL has deliberately overcharged for Sunday Ticket and limited it to an all-or-nothing option so that we’ll just shrug our shoulders and watch the games available on Fox or CBS in our local markets.

Even if we’d rather be watching a different game.

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