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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's the Harm in a Missed Super Bowl?

As reported here earlier, there was "a bit of a kerfuffle" at the Super Bowl this year.  Now, the National Football League is trying to figure out what it can do to address the harm to the fans who were sold tickets to effectively non-existent seats.   Of the 1260 fans effected, about 2/3 were sent to alternative seating in the stadium,  The remaining 400 had to view the game on video monitors or from standing-room only spots. As reported here on Slate.com, the 400 have the following options.

First, the NFL offered the 400 $2400/ticket, three times the face value of the tickets, plus a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl which they could keep or resell.  In the alternative, the NFL offered the 400 a nontransferable ticket to the future Super Bowl of their choice plus accommodations and airfare but they would not receive the $2400.  The third option would be to join a class action lawsuit in the Dallas District Court filed against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  A fourth option is that the 400 could make an epic movie based on the graphic novel that tells the story of how 400 outraged football fans held their position at the narrow passageway through which a throng of enemies tried to invade their homeland.  The screenplay is still in the works, but you can get a sense of what it will look like from this prequel:

Those not willing to become action heroes may be inclined to join the class action lawsuit.  Attorney Tom Goldstein explains that fans electing this route will likely not get anything more than the NFL is already offering.  According to Goldstein, this is due to the fact that in order to succeed the class action would need to demonstrate that the NFL knew that the portable seats were not going to be ready for patrons by game time and therefore failed to inform them of this.  Goldstein predicts that the class action would likely settle out of court for something very similar to the offers that the NFL has already made.  On the other hand, the attorney representing the class action, Michael Avenatti, says that the compensation offered by the NFL would not cover the full expenses of the patrons and therefore at this time there is not enough information to settle.    He claims that based on pricing of the tickets the day of the game, and other expenses of the displaced patrons the average displaced patron lost almost $4,000, meaning that the NFL offer would not fully compensate them.  Regarding the second option, Avenatti explains that there has been no information provided to the fans as to where their seats for the future Super Bowl will be located, what the airfare will include, and what other accommodations they will receive. 

The class action may enhance the negotiating power of the aggrieved 400, but it also may make it more difficult and more expensive for the NFL to settle the claims.  Are lawyers a good thing or a bad thing?

Payton The NFL has also acknowledged that in addition to the 400, and the 860 fans who were assigned "nosebleed" seats when their assigned seats turned out to be unusable, 1,140 fans were delayed entry to stadium because of the problem.  The NFL has apparently now offered fans in the latter two categories either face value for their tickets or a ticket to any upcoming Super Bowl.  

 As Slate's Jeremy Stahl explains, the best option for the fans depends on the nature of their harm and the nature of their animus.  One reasonable Chicago Bears fan might be happy to have watched the Bears' 46-10 trouncing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX from the comforts of home, thus saving something like $4000.  Another Chicago Bears fan might place the value of being there to see Walter Payton winning his Super Bowl ring at $10,000.  And what would have been the value to hypothetical fans of the New England Patriots if they were displaced and thus forced to miss the humiliation they would have experienced had they witnessed the Bears' 46-10 demolition of their Patiots in Super Bowl XX?

[JT and Jared Vasiliauskas]

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