What Goes Around Comes Around: The Super Bowl Ticket Fiasco

There was plenty of hype surrounding this year’s Super Bowl.  At the beginning of the season, Dallas insisted that they were going to play the first Super Bowl in their new stadium.  Fairly quickly into the season, Dallas fans realized that the likelihood of that happening was slim.  I held out hope for both the Chargers and the Bears, but it was yet another disappointing season for the Chargers and a disastrous end to the season for the Bears.  However, as fans from across the country arrived at the brand new stadium to watch the Green Bay Packers ultimately beat the Pittsburg Steelers, many quickly realized it was not going to be a fairy tale ending and, for some, it was not simply because they were Steelers fans.  After being forced to watch the game from different seats or from the lobby on television screens, some fans are taking matters into their own hands and are suing.  Americans sure do love litigation.


People seem to be split as to who should win the current law suits filtering through the system.  One writer, Gregg Doyel, hopes that the plaintiffs that are suing lose and are forced to pay attorney’s fees to the other side.   Sure, the four hundred people whose seats were not ready for the game received tickets to next year’s Super Bowl and received triple the face value of their ticket.  With all due respect to Mr. Doyel, I am at a complete loss as to how this gentleman became a sports writer.  As a Bears fan and a Chargers fan, the Packers and the Steelers are at the top of my list for teams I hate the most.  However, for fans traveling across the country to watch their team play in the biggest football game of the year, it is kind of imperative that they actually get to watch the game.  Who cares if they get tickets to next year’s game; if it is not a repeat of Packers and Steelers, chances are many of the fans will not want to go to the game (at least not with the same amount of excitement that they presumably had going into this year’s game).  From my point of view, you simply cannot put a price on missing out on the biggest game of the year, especially when your team is playing.  Maybe it is different for me, because my heart continually gets ripped out of my heart with each of my teams (Chargers always manage to blow it, the Bears are master choke artists, the Cubs are, well, the Cubs and USC is currently in their own legal battle for reducing the bowl ban), but if one of my teams did make it to the big game and I got tickets and was subsequently told I would not actually be able to see my team play, I would cry.  I would cry a lot.  I would be pissed.   Really pissed.


So the NFL decided to “sweeten the deal,” by allowing the 400 displaced fans to opt to have a ticket to any Super Bowl in the future.  Well, great! Except…if you opt for this ticket (essentially meaning, if you do not think your team will make it to the Super Bowl next year), you forfeit the monetary compensation of approximately $2,400.  So, now the fans get to make this horrible decision – do you hope your team makes it to the big game next year and take a ticket to that as well as taking the money or do you, like many die-hard fans, want to go to a game where can watch your own team for the championship?   However, what happens if something extraordinarily unexpected happens before your team makes it to the championship title game (like your team continues to slide into the abyss, like the Chargers or heavens forbid, you die).  The NFL is trying to find a nice cozy way to get out of the ditch they have dug for themselves, but their options are not fixing anything.  The bare bones truth is that Dallas built a brand new stadium and there is absolutely no excuse to inform fans, mere hours before the game, that their tickets are essentially no good.  As Peter King points out, Dallas didn’t even apply for permits for the seats until a month before the game.  [3]


As a law student, I can appreciate that most litigation is frivolous and, if I were not such a fanatic about sports, I would probably agree with Mr. Doyell that this is just excessive and pointless.  However, the NFL is not just in place built for the pleasure of the fans.  It is a business; a very lucrative business.   The better the team, the more money the team makes.  However, something needs to be done about the way Jerry Jones conducts his business.  Some of the individuals that encountered problems at the Super Bowl were the so called “founders” of the stadium.  Individuals that paid $100,000 a pop to help build the stadium and, in return, have the best seats in the house for all of Dallas’ home games.


Three individuals who encountered problems with their tickets were quick to act and filed a federal class action law suit.  Steve Simms, Mike Dolabi and Wes Lewi, filed a class action suit against numerous defendants, including the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones, himself.  Simms represents those displaced at the Super Bowl, while Dolabi represents the “Founders” and Lewis represents the relocated group.  Each plaintiff, representing their class of ticket holders, seek to enforce the same rights and remedies, including breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, deceit and concealment, negligent misrepresentation; and Texas Deceptive Practices Act.  The complaint goes into more detail about what plaintiffs claim under each claim of action.


I’m not sure about the strength of the class action’s individual claims, but hey, I’m not a lawyer…yet.  However, it does not seem that the NFL can afford to get into a battle with the fans.  Jerry Jones apparently “wants fans to know” that he accepts responsibility for the seat fiasco at the Super Bowl.  Personally, I would love nothing more than to see Jerry Jones go down for the five million that the federal class action is seeking.  Yes, I hate the Packers and the Steelers.  Passionately.  However, I’m standing by my fellow fans and sure hope that Jerry Jones gets what is coming to him and certainly what he deserves.  If anything like this happens again, as I am sure it will, I would love to be the attorney to take on the case.