Can Sports Teams Keep Rival Fans Away?

One 49ers fan wants millions after he was blocked from attending a football game in Seattle.

Seahawks only; no Niners fans allowed.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown
April 28, 2014, 10:59 a.m.

When Seattle Seahawks corner­back Richard Sher­man crushed the Su­per Bowl dreams of 49ers fan John E. Wil­li­ams III, Wil­li­ams wasn’t there to see it in per­son. For that, he wants $50 mil­lion.

Wil­li­ams filed suit this month against the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL, and Tick­et­mas­ter; he’s al­leging the prac­tice of re­strict­ing tick­et sales to res­id­ents of cer­tain states is a vi­ol­a­tion of fed­er­al law.

For Janu­ary’s NFC Cham­pi­on­ship game in Seattle, the Seahawks lim­ited on­line tick­et sales to cred­it card hold­ers who lived in Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, and some parts of Canada. Wil­li­ams, a diehard 49ers fan and Las Ve­gas res­id­ent, couldn’t buy him­self a tick­et — ex­actly what the Seahawks in­ten­ded.

Seattle isn’t the only team to try to pro­tect its home-field ad­vant­age by lim­it­ing the num­ber of tick­ets sold to out­siders. The Ok­lahoma City Thun­der is cur­rently keep­ing play­off tick­ets to a few neigh­bor­ing states, leav­ing out the Mem­ph­is Grizz­lies fans who might oth­er­wise in­vade.

That, Wil­li­ams says, should be il­leg­al. His law­suit cites both fed­er­al and state laws that ban “un­fair or de­cept­ive” busi­ness prac­tices. The fed­er­al law ref­er­enced by Wil­li­ams em­powers the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion to stop such prac­tices and levy fines for vi­ol­at­ors. An FTC spokes­man did not of­fer com­ment on if the agency is re­view­ing the case.

The U.S. Dis­trict Court in Las Ve­gas, where the suit was filed, did not re­spond to calls for com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­li­ams, the se­lect­ive sales are a form of “eco­nom­ic dis­crim­in­a­tion.” Giv­en the NFL’s tax-ex­empt status and use of pub­lic fund­ing to build many of its sta­di­ums, the league has an ob­lig­a­tion to give all cit­izens a fair chance to pur­chase its products, Wil­li­ams said.

The Seahawks and Tick­et­mas­ter did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. An NFL spokes­man de­clined to weigh in.

What We're Following See More »
NRA Chief: Leftist Protesters Are Paid
16 hours ago
Trump Still on Campaign Rhetoric
19 hours ago
Trump Rails On Obamacare
19 hours ago

After spending a few minutes re-litigating the Democratic primary, Donald Trump turned his focus to Obamacare. “I inherited a mess, believe me. We also inherited a failed healthcare law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe” he said. “I’ve been watching and nobody says it, but Obamacare doesn’t work.” He finished, "so we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

Trump Goes After The Media
19 hours ago

Donald Trump lobbed his first attack at the “dishonest media” about a minute into his speech, saying that the media would not appropriately cover the standing ovation that he received. “We are fighting the fake news,” he said, before doubling down on his previous claim that the press is “the enemy of the people." However, he made a distinction, saying that he doesn't think all media is the enemy, just the "fake news."

Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
20 hours ago

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.