Niners-Seahawks rivalry may spill into the courtroom

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

In the past few years the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have developed one of the most ferocious and entertaining rivalries in the NFL.

The teams are two of the best in the league, the two coaches have a bitter history, and in general, the two cities seem to show a great deal of disdain for one another. That animosity boiled over last January, prior to the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, with the Seahawks organization reportedly opting to not sell tickets to those 49er faithful who wanted to make the trip, by limiting ticket sales to credit cards addressed in Washington, Oregon or other northwestern states. Not California.

At least one out of town 49ers fan seems to have taken issue with that.

According to the Associated Press, John E Williams III, a 49ers fan from Las Vegas, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the NFL for engaging in what he calls “economic discrimination”:

By allowing the NFL to decide who can or cannot attend the games, you make it an unfair game. Seattle fixed it. . . . 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.

The NFL consistently contends to be the “hospitality” league, but the Seahawks ticket practice is anything but hospitable. Tickets priced for $800 at Super Bowl XLVIII were actually sold for over $3,000 as part of the NFL’s “hospitality” package.

Going forward, if this type of ticketing exclusion practice becomes more common it will certainly hurt the hospitality image that the league seemingly has worked so hard to cultivate. The NFL in recent seasons has been trying to expand its reach globally, becoming a game for everyone. Evidently not, just a game for pre-approved fans.

As for the lawsuit in question, the NFL has not commented. For the record, the two teams meet in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day.

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