Rand: Lawsuit over the right to root

  • Updated: April 29, 2014 - 12:17 AM

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, right, had the last word against 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game in in January at Seattle’s raucous CenturyLink Field, a notoriously difficult venue for visiting NFL teams.


CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

To what lengths can a pro sports franchise go in order to have as many fans of the home team as possible in the stands for games?

In the NFL, that suddenly has become the million-dollar question. Or, more appropriately, the $50 million question.

A 49ers fan is suing the NFL for that amount, claiming a restrictive Seahawks ticket policy before the January playoff game in Seattle between the two teams was discriminatory.

Only fans who had credit card addresses in specific Seahawks-friendly states and Canadian provinces, including Washington and the surrounding area, were allowed to buy tickets.

The lawsuit alleges that such a practice violates the Federal Consumer Fraud Act. John E. Williams III, a longtime 49ers fan who couldn’t buy tickets and filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, told the Associated Press: “They’re always boasting up there about their 12th player and everything else. But by allowing the NFL to decide who can or cannot attend the games, you make it an unfair game. Seattle fixed it.”

While most would agree that $50 million is a pretty ridiculous sum to ask for as damages for not being able to attend a football game, the suit does open up some interesting questions.

Something as simple as a season ticket is only sought out by someone who wants to watch the home team over a full season, but at least it is available to a fan of a specific road team who wants to pay up just to guarantee access to one game.

The same principle applies to the Vikings’ single-game pricing model in 2013. Single-game tickets were available for all games except the Green Bay game. Fans purchasing those tickets also had to buy tickets to the game against Cleveland — helping the Vikings move ticket inventory for a lesser game while also perhaps discouraging Packers fans from buying the tickets.

And should the general availability of all tickets on the secondary market — sometimes at a hefty markup but regardless available — render the point moot. After all, nobody was saying Williams couldn’t go to the game. Seahawks officials presumably weren’t checking IDs or jerseys at the door and turning away fans who rooted for the 49ers.

Seattle won the game 23-17, and went on to win the Super Bowl. How much extra home-field advantage did the Seahawks gain from the ticket policy, and was it really unfair? We’ll see how far the court goes in tackling the gray area of those questions.


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


question of the day

Poll: Do you agree with the NFL decision to deny Adrian Peterson's appeal?

Weekly Question


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Brooklyn 12:00 PM
Cleveland 6:00 PM
Indiana 6:30 PM
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Houston 7:00 PM
San Antonio 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
LA Lakers 7:30 PM
Minnesota 8:00 PM
Philadelphia 9:00 PM
Phoenix 9:00 PM
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters
Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon