The Washington Post obviously is very anxious to create a buzz about their multi-part series about issues within the Redskins ticket office. When I awoke this morning there I had an email in my box giving the outline of the initial installment of the series and a link to the story.
In the first few paragraphs we were led to believe that the throng of Steeler fans that were in full throat at last year's Monday night game happened due to the fact that the Redskins sold general admission tickets directly to brokers. Later in the story, we find out that 443 tickets to that game were sold to brokers. That's not good, but it certainly doesn't account for Steeler Nation disrupting the Redskins' offensive play calling. Many, many more tickets than that were sold to Steeler fans. I think that there were 443 of them tailgating in the spaces immediately adjacent to mine in the Green Lot.
But, hey, good bit of investigation there, WaPo, for uncovering that broker deal. Oh, wait, you didn't uncover it? The Redskins themselves did? And they stopped it? And the disciplined the employees involved? All by themselves?
Like I said, what happened clearly was wrong. Apparently, anxious to sell some club seats, some in the ticket office packaged up some premium seats with some lower-bowl general admission seats. The former are available to anyone who calls up the ticket office and want them, the latter are supposed to go to people on the season ticket waiting list (or to upper deck ticket holders as an upgrade with the vacated nosebleeds to people on the list).
The Redskins uncovered all of this last spring and disciplined the associates involved in an unspecified manner.
This is wrong on many levels but it also was a violation of team policy. Judging from Twitter and some message boards there is some inclination out there to go after Dan Snyder with torches and pitchforks. There is no reason to think that Snyder had anything to do with this. Are you going to go after Snyder if the beer guy short changes you?
Tomorrow's story in the Post will deal with something with which Snyder probably is more familiar. In order to get the premium seats you have to sign a contract. You can't buy them for just a year. The contracts are for from six to 10 years. Since 2005, according to the Post, the Redskins have filed 137 lawsuits in an attempt to prevent premium ticket holders (club seats and suites) from breaking their contracts.
The angle, of course, is that the mean old Redskins are picking on individuals and struggling companies by forcing them to honor contracts that they signed. Certainly one would think that the Redskins could grant some leeway in these tough economic times. And it's possible that they do. According to a statement that they sent out this afternoon in anticipation of the Post's coming story, they first attempt to negotiate a compromise with the party wanting to break the deal. For every lawsuit filed they say "dozens" of successful negotiations have resulted in companies and individuals being able to get out of their agreements.
I hope that the Post story on Thursday offers up some key bits of information about these lawsuits. Among the things I would need to know before either condemning the Redskins or taking up for them are:
- What do other NFL teams do in such situations? I'm sure that the Redskins aren't the only team with such issues. What do Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft do when someone wants out of a premium seat deal?
- This would require a legal opinion but I'd like to find out if what happens to future cases if you give someone a pass. In the story there is an account of one club ticket holder who wanted to get out a few years early and was sued by the team. If the team had just let this guy go, would that establish a precedent that would make it difficult for them to go after, say, a corporation with five years and a million dollars left on a deal for a suite?
- Was that one club seat holder offered a compromise? What were the terms of the compromise offered?
I guess when someone wants to break a contract with the Washington Post corporation they are perfectly free to do so.
I also suppose that I'm going to be called a Snyder apologist by some. Sorry, but there is plenty to dislike about Snyder without piling on with stuff like this. I'd rather have all of the facts before I make a judgement.
Update: TV station USA 9 reports that on his radio show, LaVar Arrington has said that Snyder "had to know" about the ticket sales because he is a "tyrant". Now let's see, Arrington is an unbiased source since he has no ax to grind with Snyder, right?