Super fraud: The NFL owes seatless fans far more than promised
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Worse than the Steelers' loss in Super Bowl XLV for many Pittsburghers was the seating fiasco Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
About 400 fans who had paid hundreds, and in many cases thousands, of dollars to watch the game from a seat inside the $1.3 billion domed facility learned shortly before kickoff that their tickets had been deactivated. Why? Because the temporary sections where they would have been seated had not been "fully completed" and may have been unsafe, the NFL said.
The problem actually affected 1,250 fans, 850 of whom were relocated to similar or better seats. The remaining 400 were given the choice of watching from standing-room areas in corners of the stadium or from a club level where they could follow the game on TV screens.
That's a travesty bordering on fraud -- and it should not be inflicted on any fan, let alone the loyalists who spent much time, money and effort traveling to Arlington, Texas, for America's premier sporting event.
The NFL apologized, saying, "The safety of fans attending the Super Bowl was paramount in making the decision and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and city of Arlington officials are in agreement with the resolution." The six temporary seating sections, which would have boosted the stadium's capacity and possibly made this the most highly attended Super Bowl, were not fit for use because the final installation of railings, as well as the tightening of stairs and risers, had not been completed, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday. The newspaper also said that the NFL knew in the middle of last week that the seats might not be ready for use during the game.
While everyone can appreciate that safety came first, it's unfathomable -- not to mention unforgivable -- that the seats had not been completed, inspected and approved for use weeks before the big game.
To make amends, the NFL said it will give the 400 fans cash equal to three times the face value of their tickets, plus a free ticket to next year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis. That's not nearly good enough.
The league and the Cowboys, who are responsible for the stadium, promised a seat to their buyers, many of whom incurred additional thousands of dollars in expense in hotel, transportation and food costs. For some of these devoted fans, many of them working class or middle class, it was the trip of a lifetime, never to be repeated again. Some took days off work and sacrificed wages; others withdrew money from savings accounts to let them make the trip to Dallas.
Although the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were not directly responsible for the incompleted seats, they must use their clout to pressure the NFL to make these fans whole by covering all costs, plus a premium paid for their disappointment, humiliation, pain and suffering. The sum of $50,000 per ticket would not be too high. The NFL must prove with a fair compensation package that a ticket for a seat to any of its games guarantees a seat -- and that this is the kind of personal foul that will not happen again.
On Monday some of the cheated fans were taking steps toward filing a lawsuit. They should file a suit, if the NFL won't settle with real money, and include as part of their victim class the 850 fans who were moved to different seats. Given the billions of dollars -- some of it taxpayer money -- that flows through pro football, the deep pockets of the NFL are likely to be very vulnerable in court.
Don't forget. The National Football League, along with its owners, is an industry that is about to embark on tough negotiations with its players. They are trying to curry good will with the public, not poisoned relations. That's why it's better for the league to settle generously and regain the trust of its fans, rather than risk a damaging class-action case that will cost the NFL's billionaires more than just dollars.
First Published February 8, 2011 12:00 am