The NFL thought they were so smart when they decided to start selling personal seating licenses. Never mind that the licenses have become bullets in the gun of critics. The NFL found a way to charge fans a one-time licensing fee so that they could have exclusive rights to certain seats for their favorite team. Of course they had to pay for those seats on a per-game basis even with an up-front financial commitment. Now, one Cleveland fan is turning this business practice against the NFL with the looming threat that there will be no games this season.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Cleveland Browns fan (and attempted politician) Ken Lanci is seeking $75,000 in damages. Ultimately those damages aren’t the real story here. The story for me is that one of the league’s most egregious money-grabbing techniques is now being used against it.
On the one hand, I understand PSLs. NFL owners aren’t dumb. They want to maximize revenue and profits. As it has turned out through the 90s and 2000s, they have created a game that is so in demand that they have been able to get away with many tactics that have fans shaking their head every year. Charging full price for pre-season games comes to mind. Even that didn’t create a contract directly between the owners and the fans.
Personal seating licenses did that. Here is the language from the suit.
Implied in every contract in Ohio is a duty of the parties thereto to act in good faith and fair dealing towards one another. The duty of good faith and fair dealing involves refraining from actions that would destroy the value of the contract to the other party.
By participating in the lockout of players, the Browns have affirmatively acted to destroy the value of the PSL Agreement as it relates to Lanci.
Now that fans can buy and sell their licenses, they own an asset that is dependent upon the NFL playing their games. In exchange for that up-front cash, NFL owners have now opened themselves up to these types of lawsuits and potentially real liabilities.
No, I don’t expect them to actually have to pay money to this fan or any others. At the same time, I don’t think it is totally out of the realm of possibility that a court will find this case has some merit. If the case has merit then it is another added bit of pressure on the owners.
I know a lot of you will find this to be just another fan like Dawg Pound Mike who wants to be the center of attention. I don’t know Ken Lanci other than what I read about him today. Maybe he is the kind of guy who wants some attention for himself. At the same time, when it comes down to the actual issue of PSLs and NFL teams, I find the suit to be at least thought-provoking as this NFL labor struggle continues to unfold.