How Not To Do Things: Redskins Suing Over 100 Fans

from the that'll-convince-them dept

We've been talking about ways that individuals and organizations can better connect with fans... while also highlighting examples of what not to do, so it should come as little surprise that many of you sent over the news that the Washington Redskins have sued well over 100 season ticket holders, after those fans faced financial hardship and were unable to pay up for new season tickets, despite having signed long-term contracts at some point. The article is long and detailed, and reading through the examples, the Redskins management appears about as heartless as can be. The Redskins chief lawyer tries to come up with excuses on each case, and it just makes the team look petty. Even worse, is that he claims that every team does this, but the Washington Post found most of the teams they contacted do not, and the few that do, only do so in the rarest of circumstances.

Meanwhile, the local baseball team, the Nationals, refuses to sue fans, and notes that it's pretty simple to deal with people who fail to live up to their contract: you take away their tickets and resell them. And, just for comparison purposes, we're talking about the Nationals, who are averaging one of the lowest average attendance rates in all of baseball. Compare that to the Redskins, who have a stunning record of selling out every home game since 1968. In other words, if anyone had a reason to go after those not paying, it would be the Nationals. The Redskins can easily resell the tickets.

And... actually, it is reselling those tickets for a nice profit while still collecting huge cash awards from those who couldn't pay -- some of whom are now declaring bankruptcy and blaming the team they used to love. On top of that, there are suggestions in the article that the Redskins used surreptitious (and potentially illegal) tactics to trick some fans into signing long term contracts when they thought they were signing yearly contracts. In at least one case, it appears that the team checked off a box for a fan, committing him to six years. In other cases, the team appears to be totally heartless. For example, the team was informed that a delinquent fan was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic -- and two months later they sued him.

If you want a lesson in how not to treat fans, check out the Redskins.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Kevin (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Wow!! That is all that really can be said in this case.

     

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    BullJustin (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Also the highest money earning team

    The Cowboys come in second behind the Redskins in annual gross revenue, even with the new 100,000 seat stadium. And yet, that is not enough for them. Truly sad, but the worst part is that they will still sell out every game in spite of these actions.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:21am

    Questions:

    1. Is there some reason for the correlation of all the NFL stories and the start of the season?

    2. What kind of economic strategy involves suing those that have fallen upon financial hardships?

    and

    3. Why can't the LFL (Lingerie Football League) manage to something stupid or infringing so I can have a legitimate reason to check out skimpy-clothed bimbos?

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    The NFL must really be in trouble. Well, at least the Redskins. To me suing your customers is nothing more than a last ditch to get as much money as you can before your ship sinks. You know, like what the music labels are doing. It is certainly not something you do to build up a customer base, that's for sure.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Plus the stadium sucks

    Seriously, jump on a train and go to Camden Yards. You'll be happier. You might even get to see a January game.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    I love (in a twisted way) how the attorney for the Redskins responds to allegations that his team is double dipping. I.e., obtaining judgments for the failure to pay plus reselling the tickets which makes the team whole. This is what attorney Donovan said:
    Donovan rejected the idea that the Redskins collected twice on the seats, saying that collecting on the judgments has been difficult. "Getting a judgment is not getting paid," he said.

    I agree that the team is likely not collecting on every judgment he obtains. However, once the tickets are resold and the team is made whole, there is no longer any need to go after the judgment. At the very least he should be filing paperwork with the courts reducing the amount of the judgments to reflect the offsets. Which apparently he is not doing.

     

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    hegemon13, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Questionable legality

    "And... actually, it is reselling those tickets for a nice profit while still collecting huge cash awards from those who couldn't pay..."

    Isn't this illegal? It seems to me that this would be the equivalent of double-letting a property (charging a tenant who broke a lease even after the property has been rented to someone else). The fans are not receiving the tickets, but they are being forced to pay for them, anyway. It seems to me that a counter-suit would be in order. In any case, the Redskins are shooting themselves in the foot. I don't follow sports much, but I do know that I would automatically shun any team that acted this way towards its fans, no matter how big a fan I was to start with.

     

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      zaven (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:05am

      Re: Questionable legality

      Not a lawyer but I do not believe this is illegal. It's a essentially a penalty for breach of contract. They aren't still charging them for the tickets.

       

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    MrLemurBoy (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    I have to admit, I'm not much of a sports fan, but this sure doesn't make me want to start watching their games.

    It's pretty disgusting, really

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    Snyder = GREED. The skins will NEVER win a championship with this owner at the helm

     

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      zaven (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:04am

      Re:

      Couldn't have said it better myself. The thought never even occurred to me to send this in. Been reading about it the last couple days. There was an article this morning's Washington post about it and they said only 9 teams in the NFL make a point to not sue their season ticket holders.

      "And... actually, it is reselling those tickets for a nice profit while still collecting huge cash awards from those who couldn't pay"

      Funny thing is that they are reselling the tickets through things like stubhub and fans from other teams are buying the tickets. The steelers redskins game last year was about a 1/3 Steelers fans if not more.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Don't sign a contract if you aren't going to fulfill it.

     

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      zaven (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      They are making season ticket holders sign 10 year contracts sometimes where they can increase the price anytime they want.

       

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        Goochman, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re:

        This was the original contract when Jack Kent Cooke opened the stadium - unless it has changed back the contracts are 2 years minimum (I have a buddy that just finished his 2 year and didnt renew)

         

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      zaven (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      They are making season ticket holders sign 10 year contracts sometimes where they can increase the price anytime they want.

       

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      fixedthatforya, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      Don't sign a contract if they are going to change it afterwards.

       

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      Jason (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

      Re:

      Don't sign a contract if you aren't willing to go to court and defend yourself over it. These people are right that they shouldn't have to pay for double-dipping.

      Unfortunately, it's like they all just decided that they shouldn't go to court over it. I feel bad for them, but if you get defaulted on something that you could've gotten out of, and some did (at least to some degree). Shame on you.

      Oh yeah, and the Redskins SUCK!!

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Sep 5th, 2009 @ 2:57am

      Re: Caveat

      Likewise, the team shouldn't sign contracts with diagnosed mentally ill people and expect to get paid. Such contracts are void.

       

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    Nathania Johnson, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:10am

    Considering the Redskins have WAITING LISTS for their season tickets, it's totally outrageous what they're doing here. I've always found it disturbing how pro sports jacks up prices on the average joe just to pay their players and execs millions!

     

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    Goochman, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Not so fast

    This would be a good story except the Redskins have every right to do what they are doing. These Club Seat holders get all their tickets and parking passes up front which includes food. So they can show up to all games, eat/drink all they want and the Redskins get the bill. The Redskins also make multiple attempts to clear things up - its round 3 of bounced checks that they start proceedings.

    Im not sure if the Nationals send out all 80+ game tickets at once so of course its easy for them just to pull them.

    Snyder is greedy, no doubt - but 100 out 25,000+ ticket holders is peanuts and again these folks have everything before the checks bounce.

     

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      Pitabred (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:22am

      Re: Not so fast

      Just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

      The Redskins are burning some serious goodwill. Screw them. There's a reason I don't go to pro sports games any more... there's no respect for the fan. I'm finding more and more people that think the same way I do. Pro sports is just becoming... blah. Nobody cares, it's not "their team" any more.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:30am

      Re: Not so fast

      Biggest issue I have is

      "Even worse, is that he claims that every team does this, but the Washington Post found most of the teams they contacted do not, and the few that do, only do so in the rarest of circumstances. "

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:39am

      Re: Not so fast

      This would be a good story except the Redskins have every right to do what they are doing.

      No one denied that. Just like the RIAA has a "right" to sue music fans as well.

      Doesn't make it smart. Doesn't make it good for business.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

      Re: Not so fast

      "So they can show up to all games, eat/drink all they want and the Redskins get the bill."

      Not so fast...

      Are you saying that the Redskins are selling their season tickets at a price so low that the fans are effectively getting free food & drink? Seems rather unlikely. It seems more likely that the ticket buyers are prepaying for the food & drink, and are footing the bill whether or not they eat it. The franchise is in no way "footing the bill."

      Besides, how is that even relevant to the point?

       

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      Lily Rowe, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 3:40pm

      Re: Not so fast

      you have this a bit wrong. Each redskins seasons ticket holder does not get the tickets for that season until that season is paid in full. If the contract is defaulted on then the person must pay all future seasons of the contract and the team has the right to resell all of the tickets however they want.

       

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    Thomas (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Remind me

    never to buy tickets for their games.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Way to go, Redskins.

     

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    yourrealname (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    Redskins

    The thing is, the Redskins make more money than any other sports team in the world except for the Manchester United. The Redskins were also caught directly selling premium seats to Stubhub and similar sites from their box office. This wouldn't be a big deal but season ticket holders have been waiting for years to move up to better seats (there is a special list for this, aside from the 150,000 plus name waiting list for season tickets). So the Redskins sell the crappy to middle range seats to season ticket holders and the best seats to Stubhub and other scalpers, when there is no reason to if they have a 150,000 person waiting list. Also, going to a Redskins game is a terrible experience for more reasons that I'm willing to list here, but basically they charge your for every little thing (and charge you a lot), for example $7.75 will get you a 20oz beer instead of a 24oz for the same price last year. They'll nickel and dime ya every chance they get. Bottom line is, the Redskins are sooooo popular that they can do whatever they want to the fans, including not ever have an above-mediocre football team, and people will continue to mindlessly buy it. If they don't like it they'll get sued and then someone else will buy it in their place.

    Just FYI I live in the DC area and have since the Redskins used to win Superbowls on occasion.

     

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    Danny, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    This is no different than cell phone companies, satellite tv providers, etc... who want customers to sign a contract for servies. They want to bind the customer to them so that they can gouge them for all the money they can and keep them on the hook.

    It really makes no sense to take those people to court for the money in addition to reselling the seats. A smarter move would be to just quitely resell the tickets. That way the ones that fail pay get to remain loyal to the team in some manner like maybe going to individual games when they can, having parties, and of course its safe to say that any of those people that were paying for season tickets were buy Redskin merchandise of some kind. But by doing this they may have triggered the Striesand Effect and now lots of people will see how the Redskins really treat their fans.

    Hell if I were in the marketing dept. of one of the other teams I would pitch the idea of a commercial for ticket sales simply saying, "Hey at least we won't sue you if you can't pay for your season tickets."

    Oh and if were that guy whose contract was extended without his say so (and I'm pretty sure there is no way to reserve the right to extend a contract without the customer's consent) I'd sue for everything I could, buy three season tickets and go to each and every game with the opposition's colors with a sign saying "These 2 seats are empty because the Redskins hate their fans."

     

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      yourrealname (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

      Re:

      First that's an incorrect use of the Streisand Effect. 2nd, if you go to a Redskins game rooting for the other team, there is a good chance you will be assaulted by the time you leave the stadium. Double that chance if the visitor wins, triple it if it's a division rival, and quadruple your chance if they just lost to Dallas at home. Also, the Redskins don't care if people see how they treat their fans because the fans will still sell out every game. I don't think people in other markets understand how much control the Redskins have of sports in DC. They make more money than the Yankees FFS, and they only play 8 home games a year (plus 2 preseason and the rare playoff game).

       

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        Danny, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re:

        First that's an incorrect use of the Streisand Effect.

        Please, enlighten me.

         

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          Jason (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 2:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The Streisand Effect occurs when your efforts directly produce the the opposite effect, not when they simply have a negative side effect.

          If the Redskins tried to suppress the coverage of this story as defamatory and their efforts to do so only got it more attention - THAT would be the Streisand effect.

          Trying to get more money by hosing fans, and thereby pissing them off, and thereby getting bad press, and thereby seeing a loss in sales. That's just what it is: bad PR.

           

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            Danny, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 2:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Ah I dig. I was thinking that by the Skins trying to make sure they make money by taking legal action against these people and the resulting loss of respect for them would result in lost money by other people refusing to by tickets was the Effect. Say they take these people to court and get the combined $20k but then during the season pissed off fans end up resulting in a loss of $60k. I was thinking that by going after the 20k so hard and in the end losing 60k would be the Effect in action.

            It seems the problem is that I assume that this fiasco will actually cost them lost ticket sales.

             

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    The Dude, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    The Bengals may suck, and may be criminals, but at least they aren't outrightly evil!

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Redskins?

    Why are we still using the offensive term "Washington Redskins" instead of the politically correct "Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons"

     

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    Joseph Durnal, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    A little more digging

    Yeah, the Redskins have every right to enforce their contracts, which say you still have to pay even if you lose the tickets for not paying, it just doesn't make sense.

    These club seats don't sell out for every game, but imagine this, instead of suing fans, have them agree to allow the team to offer the seats as promotions. Free upgrades for some folks in the nose bleed section. A few tickets here and there for local high school football MVPs. This blog often talks about infinite goods, and using them to promote, well, club seats for some games go unused, they aren't infinite, but it is still something you have that you aren't selling, so why not get some value out of it? Getting some promotional exposure out of giving away seats that would otherwise remain empty is a lot better than getting nothing in bankruptcy court for the same empty seat.

     

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    Michial Thompson, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    I guess copyright law isn't good enough

    Hell why just screw copyright law, Mikee here wants all contract law thrown out....

    Seems to me if the people signed a contract committing to multiple years, then they should have the right to sue if someone breaks that contract... Pretty simple in my eyes...

    If they could not honor their contracts then they shouldn't have ever signed them.

     

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      Jason (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

      Re: I guess copyright law isn't good enough

      I think it's clear that when they made the purchase they had good reason to believe they could honor the contract. Additionally, it's utterly unreasonable that the terms of the contract are even legal. Any agreement can and SHOULD be able to be renegotiated or terminated for good cause. Obviously, there may need to be terms and considerations.

      I would be the first to say that even if the club resold the tickets, there would be a cost of sales involved as well as however many games' revenue was lost in the intervening period. But being unconditionally on the hook for 10 seasons worth without any out, is tantamount to extortion.

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

      Re: I guess copyright law isn't good enough

      "Hell why just screw copyright law, Mikee here wants all contract law thrown out...."

      1. Why do you suddenly sound so similar to Angry Girl all of the sudden, Michial?

      2. Get a properly spelled first name, please.

      3. Such hyperbole, tut tut. Honestly, Michelle, if you're going to use the same hyperbolic language that pundits and newmen use to whip up emotion and sell commercials, then we're going to accord you the same amount of respect...which is to say none. The very idea that you could go from Mike suggesting that enforcing their contract wasn't the best plan and MIGHT have legal issues if they resold the seats (more on that in a moment) to Mike "wants all contract law thrown out" is so egregious a false progression analysis that I've decided to use all of these spectacularly large words to chastise you. I also insist that you know go back and reread this entire paragraph with the voice of a disapponited Englishmen as its speaking voice. Go on, I'll wait.

      "Seems to me if the people signed a contract committing to multiple years..."

      Did you miss that part of the story where it wasn't the PEOPLE who signed for multiple years, but rather (at least in one case) Chiefs employees, probably in sales, checking boxes on the contract FOR THEM? If you feel like lightly cutting or whipping yourself in shame, feel free, you deserve it.

      "...then they should have the right to sue if someone breaks that contract"

      Find me one instance where, so long as they didn't do anything illegal that would preclude such a suit, Mike or anyone else siad that they did NOT have that right. No? Nothing? Sigh, okay, yes I'll wait for some more cutting/whipping, but make it quick (and deep), mmkay?

      "Pretty simple in my eyes"

      If it makes you feel any better, I can assure you that you are indeed coming off as VERY simple.

      "If they could not honor their contracts then they shouldn't have ever signed them"

      Repetitive idiocy. In some cases, they didn't sign the contracts.

      But for those that did, at what point or to what level is the contract of a sports ticket similar to a lease agreement with a landlord. I mean, they're essentially th same thing: One person owns a building and is renting out a partition of that building in reservation of the leasee for a certain predetermined period of time and scope.

      Now, if landlord A evicts leasee B and sues him to recover rent for the broken lease of 6 months, and A then rents the apartment to leasee C, he no longer is legally allowed to recover for rents 4-6. That is typical leasser law.

      Now why, Mindy, would that not apply here?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Most of you tech weenies have no clue at all, do you?

    Of course the Redskins are screwing their fans. Why? Because they can. If the deadbeats don't like it, they can FO and there will be 100 people willing to buy their tickets at a higher price.

    You think the Yankee fans "respect" the Yankee ownership?

     

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    patt (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    redskins in snyderville

    this is just plain ridiculous, almost even for snyder. go to bsflag.com and throw an email flag at danny.

     

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