Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers Fan Sues NFL Over No Tickets to 49ers-Seahawks


A lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan has sued the NFL for $50 million over not being allowed to purchase a ticket to the NFC Championship Game in Seattle between his 49ers and the host Seahawks. Claiming “economic damages” he wants $40 million plus $10 million as punishment. This man, Las Vegas, Nevada resident John Williams III, spoke his mind, according to NPR:

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.

and

The practice of withholding the sale of tickets from the public at large and allowing only credit card holders limited to certain areas is a violation of the Federal Consumer Fraud Act and/or common law.

The basis for Williams’ argument is that, since the NFL gets public assistance to build stadiums–and does not pay income tax, since it is a non-profit–the NFL should not be allowed to selectively sell tickets. Rather, he states, all games across the NFL, regardless of location, should be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis.

As wonderful as that might sound, one would also have to think about all of the Seahawks fans that would find their way down to Candlestick–and, in fact, do. Furthermore, the practice of limiting sales to certain zip codes is definitely not limited to the Seahawks organization. It is commonly used to avoid mass purchasing by one individual for distribution on the secondary market in addition to, of course, boosting the number of relative home fans in attendance.

Should the NFL have some sort of policy regarding the availability of tickets to opposing fans? As many of you know, I recently was in England and had the good fortune to see a few Premier League soccer matches. The way the stands work in the Premier League is as follows: A small section is always quartered off from the rest of the stadium–different concessions, different bathrooms, different stairs, and walls and security in between the 10-15 percent of away fans and the home fans. You can be thrown out of the stadium for wearing the wrong colors in the wrong section–that is, if you are not knocked out first. They may ensure that a portion of the seats is filled with visitors, but the amount of violence and passion that comes out of fans makes the Seahawks-49ers rivalry seem like two usually friendly individuals who are upset because one misplaced the crumpets.

My point? Ticket free-for-alls aren’t always great, because then one person can buy up all the tickets to a big game and hike the prices even further into the stratosphere. Guaranteed tickets for visitors is something that is not in the NFL or American sports tradition, and while it might sound nice in theory, it also has the potential to create stronger divisions and lead to the same sorts of social problems that arise in Britain. You may have a Seahawks fan for a boss, but at least you guys likely do not let your allegiances bother your workplace relationship.

I would be surprised if this lawsuit goes very far and, though I think it was an annoying trick on the Seahawks’ end, limiting ticket sales was a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

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Tags: 49ers 49ers 2013 49ers 2014 San Francisco 49ers

  • RegisHawk

    49er fans might want to consider a class action suit against this idiot for misrepresenting them as a pack of money-grubbing morons.

    • Douglas Totten

      Should there be class action suits against all drunk fans of all teams for misrepresenting fans of that team as drunkards? I think all pro sports team fan bases would be involved in litigation for years to come. . .

  • loverpoint

    That game deserves special attention and I side with Williams. If selective sales practices were the normal thing in the NFL then why did the media find this game so unusual and bring it to the attention of the public .

    The selective sales was a cheap tactic used by the Seahawks to discourage and prevent 49er fans from attending the game.

    • RegisHawk

      Selective sales is the normal practice for playoff games, especially as you get closer to the Super Bowl. The reason the media made this a story was to promote the rivalry between Seattle & San Fran. The rivalry between Peyton & Tom Brady has been around for 10+ years, so there was no need to blow up the fact that the Broncos did the same thing, as other teams have done in previous playoffs for years.

      • Douglas Totten

        I don’t think the 49ers or the Seahawks made it a big deal, so you must be right, us media folks got carried away.

    • Douglas Totten

      It may be cheap, but there is no rule against it.

  • Justin

    I can’t really agree with the guys point. He mentions public funds were used and they were. Funds from the taxpayers of the City of Seattle and Washington State. If anything that point supports them limiting the sales to that geographic region. Second, there are many businesses that limit sales to the US mainland, excluding Hawaii, Alaska, and foreign countries. Shouldn’t they be sued as well? Is Nordstroms discriminating when they open a sale to their highest spending customers only? What about the shops that have “Reserve the Right to Refuse Service” signs or “No Shoes No Shirt No Service”? Are they open to lawsuits for discrimination?

    • Douglas Totten

      You raise some good points, Justin. The “No Shoes No Shirt No Service” signs are not the best analogy, in my opinion, as there would be an action taken against the wishes of the owner within the owners’ property, but that is neither here nor there.

      Ultimately, you are right. Many companies choose to exclude customers based on state laws or ease of accomplishing things. However, those businesses that do not sell to Hawaii or Alaska do not do so for shipping costs, primarily, whereas here the individual would be paying for his own travel and no shipping would be necessary. Also, what do you mean by Nordstroms opening a sale to high-spending customers? Are you just saying they have high prices?

      I don’t think this guy will win any damages, and I think you are on the right track in some regards, but other arguments of yours might need a bit of work.