As the Washington Post plans to follow its report that Redskins employees sold game tickets directly to brokers with another report detailing legal actions the team has taken against corporate suite and club seat holders who defaulted on multi-year contracts, the Redskins have gotten in front of the story, issuing a press release regarding the situation.
The statement issued by the Redskins on Wednesday afternoon explains that the team is speaking out “to provide balance and a more complete picture than the one the Post is attempting to portray.”
Currently on its web site, the Post portrays the case of Alonzo Webb, who signed a six-year contract in 2004 at $5,700 per season for two tickets, and who decided in 2008 that he could no longer afford the tickets. “He asks for relief because sales people had told him that he could get out of the deal if he could no longer afford it,” the Post reports. “The team refuses and sues on Oct. 9, 2008.”
In January 2009, a judgment against Webb was entered in the amount of $18,251.
So much for the doctrine of mitigation of harm.
And we only mention that only half-jokingly. Surely, the Redskins have a legal obligation to attempt to re-sell the tickets and, even more surely, the customer is entitled to a credit for any money generated via the sale of the tickets to another person.
Other examples presumably will be listed in a Post story regarding the lawsuits, which is scheduled to be published tomorrow.
The Redskins acknowledge in their statement that twenty to thirty lawsuits have been filed annually, since 2005. The lawsuits were pursued, the team explains, with the intent of enforcing the long-term contracts of corporate suite and club seat holders who defaulted on their obligations.
The Redskins also point out that legal action never has been taken against the general admission ticket holders, who account for nearly 70,000 of the 91,000 seats at FedEx Field.
Further, the team characterizes that legal action is used as a last resort, and that “[f]or every lawsuit the team has filed, it has worked out payment plans or renegotiated contracts with dozens of other suite and club seat holders.”
Bottom line? The Redskins claim that the newspaper’s “focus on a tiny minority of suite and club seat holders who have defaulted on their contracts and against whom the Team has been forced to take legal action is unfair to the Redskins and the enormous effort we make to reach out to and work with fans who find themselves in financial difficulties.”
In our view, the fact that most of the suite and club seat holders didn’t default is irrelevant to whether the Redskins ultimately chose to file lawsuits against those who did. The reality is that the Redskins have an apparent business practice of filing suit to enforce the contracts, when legal action is deemed necessary. The fact that the Redskins don’t have to do it very often in relation to the entire ticket base is irrelevant.
And while the Redskins have every right to enforce their legal rights, the broader question is whether it makes sense in an industry that relies upon the support of the local populace to adopt a business practice that entails suing the very people from whom the support for the organization flows. Some might think it does, some might think it doesn’t.
The fact that, in the end, only a small percentage of the local populace ever get sued by the Redskins has no bearing, in our view, on whether suing the customers represents a prudent and appropriate strategy in an industry that relies heavily on its relationship with said customers.
Again, reasonable minds will differ on the propriety of such lawsuits. The fact that, in most cases, lawsuits aren’t filed because the customers honor their obligations doesn’t matter.