49ers Fan Sues NFL For $50 Million For Letting Teams Sell Locals-Only Tickets

During the most recent NFL playoffs, some teams opted to only allow people in certain areas to buy tickets. The idea was to make sure as many home team fans had access to these important games as possible, but some claim it’s an illegally discriminatory practice.

The AP reports that a San Francisco 49ers fan from Las Vegas has sued the NFL in a U.S. District Court for allowing the Seattle Seahawks to limit credit card purchases of tickets for the ‘Hawks vs. Niners NFC Championship game to people with billing addresses in Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

According to the plaintiff, the NFL’s use of public subsidies and taxpayer money to construct stadia means teams should not be able to cherry-pick which people have access to tickets.

“‘The practice of withholding the sale of tickets from the public at large and allowing only credit card holders limited to certain areas is a violation of the Federal Consumer Fraud Act and/or common law,” alleges the complaint, which says the plaintiff suffered “economic discrimination and violation of public accommodation solely” because his credit card didn’t have a billing address in one of the selected states or provinces.

“[B]y allowing the NFL to decide who can or cannot attend the games, you make it an unfair game. Seattle fixed it,” the plaintiff explains to the AP. “This selected process is contrary to the spirit of the NFL and contrary to public accommodation.”

The suit seeks $10 million in punitive damages and $40 million in real damages.

Seattle wasn’t alone in selling locals-only tickets to a playoff game. That same weekend, the Denver Broncos only allowed fans with billing addresses in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, and Western Kansas to purchase tickets to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Both home teams ended up winning and moving on to the Super Bowl, though we doubt the ticket policies can be thanked for that.

Regardless, we polled Consumerist readers at the time of these games and nearly 60% of you said that the NFL should not allow teams to sell tickets based on billing addresses, while another 15% said that only a portion of tickets should be set aside for area residents. Only 25% of readers sided with the teams and said they should be able to sell tickets to whomever they choose.