This past January, I wrote a brief article about how the Seattle Seahawks had set up rules that prevented certain people from purchasing face value tickets to the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. When a limited number of individual tickets went on sale, the Seahawks set it up so you could only purchase tickets if your credit card had a billing address in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.
While I don't think the Seahawks ever explicitly stated the reason for this, it was assumed that they wanted to prevent 49ers fans from purchasing tickets to the game. And now, one fan is suing. John Williams, a resident of Nevada, was prevented from purchasing tickets to the game because of his Nevada credit card. The lawsuit does not actually state his team of choice.
This pissed off plenty of fans, but as far as I can tell, he's the only one with the temerity to file a lawsuit. He is suing the Seahawks, the NFL, First & Goal Inc., The Washington State Public Stadium Authority (and its chairperson), and Ticketmaster. Williams filed a lawsuit for a total of $50 million, and you can read through it down below.
His claims center around the fact that the stadium was built with a large percentage of public funds, and he was denied the ability to purchase a ticket to the game "because of the economic discrimination and violation of public accommodation solely because his credit card was not issued in the restrictive [areas]." He included the NFL in the lawsuit because of some of their tax exemptions, as well as the public money generally used for stadiums.
While I understand people being upset about not being able to purchase tickets, the notion of suing over this amuses me. It's become the go-to move when a person is not happy with something. He's pissy he did not get a chance to purchase tickets for face value, and instead was going to have to go through a secondary market. He claims economic discrimination, but one problem I see is that state of residency is not a protected class. If he thought he was being discriminated against because of his race, color, national origin, age, sex, citizenship, familial status, disability status, veteran status or genetic information, he would stand a chance. As is, I would be surprised to see this get very far.
Jim Harbaugh addressed the matter back in January:
The Seahawks blocked ticket sales to California residents. What are your thoughts on that?
"Well, it's within the rules. It's within the spirit of the rules of the National Football League. I actually respect it. That you're trying to do for your team, put them in the best possible position to win that you can. And, I respect that their organization does that for their team. I think they do that in a lot of ways with their team, with their fans, with their organization. So, what do I think of it? I respect it."
It's every man for himself when it comes to this kind of thing. The Seahawks were not the first team to do this, and they won't be the last. This has happened in a variety of sports over the years. The plaintiff's first claim for relief states, "a uniform policy for distribution of NFL tickets should be established by the NFL." It's claims two and three that ask for $10,000,000 and $40,000,000, respectively. I suppose I can see some reason for the first claim. But as to the other ones? They certainly seem reasonable for not wanting to buy tickets from a scalper.