Earlier this week, it was announced that the Broncos would restrict ticket sales for the AFC Championship Game (which they host today at 3 p.m. EST agains the Patriots). The move was not made on the part of Denver management not to help spur ticket sales, since a game of this magnitude was clearly going to be a sellout already. Instead it was a blatant attempt to limit the number of Patriots fans in attendance.
The method that Denver went about doing this was by limiting sales to buyers only from the “Rocky Mountain region,” defined vaguely as: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and Western Kansas (sorry, diehard fans from Eastern Kansas, apparently you don’t count).
Such a distinction seems on the surface to be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or, at the very least, there would be some sort of legal recourse for New Englanders to take. Simply denying someone on the basis of geography feels illegal, right?
As it turns out, that depends. According to University of New Hampshire Professor of Law, Michael McCann, the Broncos aren’t necessarily outside of their rights.
“It’s probably legal,” McCann said when he spoke to BostInno about Denver’s decision. “And I say that because it’s difficult to make a viable legal claim that discrimination on the basis of a geographic region is one that triggers unlawful conduct. It’s not impossible, but the way in which it would become likely doesn’t seem to be in play here. There’s no racial, or ethnic connection to what they’re doing. They’re just trying to help their fans.”
McCann, who is the Director of Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at UNH, and also contributes regularly to Sports Illustrated on legal issues, seemed dubious about the chances of a Patriots fan succeeding in getting around the Broncos’ ruling.
“I think you could make a creative argument that they’re in violation of consumer protection laws, but I don’t think someone would be likely to bring such a claim. It would take a creative application of those laws to work. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely.”
And much as it might not sit right with diehard fans, the reason why these court cases might ultimately fail is (at least in part), circumstantial.
“Courts are generally more skeptical of interfering with sport teams, especially something like this, where the harm that’s being caused is relatively modest,” McCann explained.
And how were Patriots fans even going to get a ruling in such a short span of time?
“You could seek an injunction, and stop the Broncos from doing that,” said McCann. “That actually makes it even less likely to work, because courts are very reluctant to grant injunctions. They’re considered extraordinary forms of relief, and not being able to buy a football ticket to a game probably doesn’t warrant an extraordinary remedy.”
Tough luck Pats fans, though at least you’ll have more time to assemble your Snackadiums in time for the game. And take solace in the fact that even some Broncos fans are having to go to extreme limits to get tickets of their own.
Images via Gazette