On Sunday, the fan who was handed the ball from Brady’s 600th career touchdown gave it back, before negotiating fair and appropriate compensation. Although he wanted to play golf with Brady, he’s getting a variety of stuff. Still, he’s receiving nothing close to the $500,000 estimated value of the ball.
Once the guy surrendered possession of the ball, he lost his leverage. The smart move, frankly, would have been to immediately leave the game the moment he received the ball, while also taking steps to create a clear record of custody for future authentication purposes. (The fact that Tampa Bay balls have a Buccaneers logo would have made that easier. [Insert possible deflation joke here.]) No one wants to leave a game early, but Mike Evans had surrendered to the fan a souvenir that happens to be worth a lot of money, to Brady or to someone else.
So what if the fan had refused to give the ball back to the Buccaneers? Could the team have forced the surrender of the ball? We’ve reviewed the online policies for game day and season pass tickets; both are silent on the issue of materials that end up in the stands, whether thrown or kicked or gifted. That would make it harder for the Bucs to take a hardline position. And while I’m not an expert on matters of Florida personal property law (or at this point any type of law in any other state), I’m aware of nothing that would allow someone to rescind a freely-given gift and legally compel its return.
Really, it was for the Buccaneers to alert their players to not do something like hand Brady’s 600th touchdown pass to a fan. Once the ball was given to the fan, the ball was his. Reasonable minds may differ on whether the guy should have given the ball back, but the reality is that he gave back something that was incredibly valuable. Arguably without getting anything close to fair value in return.
Especially since, if push had come to shove, the Bucs likely couldn’t have forced the guy to give the ball back. And he then could have sold it. For a whole lot of money.