Ask The Commish: What Should I Consider When Changing Platforms?

By Reginald James
Reginald James

With one week left, our commissioner has told us that they won’t be able to pay us our winnings and bonus money because they lost it in Vegas last week. He said we’ll get our money, but we have to wait. Can you sue for fantasy winnings? Have you heard of people doing that? We’re getting a new commish next year.



When he says they’ll pay you, but that you’ll have to wait, do you believe them? Maybe they mean it. Do they seem contrite about it, or are they flippant about the whole thing?



As soon as the season is over, get together with all of your league mates. First decide how much time you’re willing to give them to pay back the prize money. Then decide whether or not you are really going to replace him. If so, get that task completed as soon as possible - if you’re not going to sue like you’re asking about. If you’re serious about possibly jumping into a court room, I would wait and see that through first. He might leave on his own after that, then you’re good.



Yes, I’ve heard of commissioners losing, spending, and outright taking all of the pool money. Just know, that I’m not a lawyer. I actually could be, but I’m not, so if all of you (or just you) decide that you are serious about taking legal action, then you should actually talk to a real lawyer.



What I do know, is that you first have to prove damages. In your situation, the commissioner owes you money. You’ll have to prove that they’ve breached a contract, a written (or oral) agreement of sorts. The question is, can you provide evidence of the payout structure and the listed bonuses? I actually have heard of leagues where everyone signs contracts each year, in an attempt to mimic “NFL business” in some way, but most people don’t do that. Seems like you should at least have league emails or texts that talks about what you all expected to win, the amount of your league dues, etc. That’s as far a I can go on this topic without looking stuff up or making it up. Hiring a lawyer to actually file a suit, would probably be expensive and not worth the cost, compared to the amount that he owes you all. However, you can at least consult a lawyer for advice. You don’t have to hire them for anything else.



I used to listen to a radio show all the time called Handel on the Law. People call in, state their issue, and Handel, an actual lawyer will tell them if they have a case and sometimes offers additional advice. Ring him up, and he might provide you with all the advice you need. He’s on <a href="" style="color:blue;" target="_blank"><strong>KFI 640 AM</strong></a> every Saturday.




A cheaper option than paying a lawyer to take on your case, would be small claims court, which is basically a DIY (do-it-yourself) lawsuit. You don’t need an attorney for small claims court. Some states will allow you to use one, while other states won’t. There’s also a maximum limit set for how much you can sue. In New York for example, it’s $10,000. Unless you’re in a high stakes league, you probably aren’t going to breach that. I also happen to know that if you win your case, you have to collect the money yourself, the court won’t do it. The judge may rule in your favor, but you may still have trouble getting paid. Keep that in mind.



J-J-J-Judy! You know why the judge shows are so popular? Because both parties get paid an appearance fee to appear. Also, the production company pays the award, which means, unlike with small claims court, you don’t have to (still) chase someone down for the money. I can’t speak for all of them, but I readily admit that I used to watch a couple of these shows every day for a number of years. I know that in that case of Judge Judy for example, her production team finds their litigants by going through actual small claims filings. There might be some judge shows that you can call or apply to be on. Maybe entertain the idea to be on a show, instead of going to small claims court. If they take your case, they will pay to fly you to wherever the show is taped. That could be New York, or Los Angeles where a lot of these shows are produced. Honestly, if this whole thing takes a bad turn, a “judge show” might be a valid option for you.



Still, see if you can settle this without spending more money than is owed to you. At the very least, yup, this should be his last year as your league’s commissioner. Let me know if I can catch you on Judge Mathis one day. I’ll be rooting for you.



I got tipped by two guys in my league. It was a thank you, I know, but I’m not into the idea of getting tips. Don’t want them or expect them. Would it be bad taste to return the money? I would explain why.


Someone wanted to thank you for being their commish, let them - this time. Who knows? Even if you explain in the most innocuous way possible, how you feel about getting tipped, you still might unintentionally rub one of them (or both) the wrong way. Maybe you should wait and make your feelings known next year at the beginning of the season, when you’re sending out your first league letter or announcement.


You could take the money and treat the two guys to burgers and beer as your own “thank you” using the money they gave you. If it’s enough to treat the whole league (probably not), then do that. Make it a pizza party. In either case, you can decide whether or not to officially mention how you paid for it. Perhaps, just let that be as well. You could also stash the money and use it for a one-time, year-end bonus payout next year. For instance, give it to the team that ends up with the longest winning streak next year. Pay it forward now, and let your personal position be known and establish the “it’s cool, but please no tips” protocol later.