Attorney Shawn Flaherty Tells NFL “Be Fair With Your Fans”.
Published on by Shawn T. Flaherty
February 10, 2011
VIA FIRST CLASS MAIL
Mr. Roger Goodell, Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Re: Super Bowl XLV (Deception of Tickets)
Dear Mr. Goodell:
By way of brief introduction, my name is Shawn T. Flaherty, and I am a practicing attorney and a founding partner of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania law firm Flaherty Fardo, LLC. I attended Super Bowl XLV with my three children, Linda (21), Patrick (15), and Kara (13). Unfortunately, we were among the numerous fans who had tickets for the now infamous temporary seating sections at Cowboys Stadium. I write, not just as an individual displaced from the seat he had been promised or as a father of three children whose Super Bowl experience was ruined as a result, but on behalf of the more than eighty (80) other fans who have contacted me since who endured the same circumstance.
I am a life-long Pittsburgher, and like most here I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Indeed, my father was Mayor of Pittsburgh when the Steelers won their first Super Bowl, and my partner in founding this firm, the now Honorable Dwayne D. Woodruff, played defensive back in the NFL for eleven seasons. I am privileged to have attended prior Super Bowls in Miami, Phoenix, Detroit, and Tampa. So, when the Steelers advanced to play in Super Bowl XLV—which, it turns out, was scheduled on my eldest daughter’s twenty-first birthday—I made sure my children and I could be there to experience it. Unfortunately, it seems that the organizers, and the NFL, did not live up to their end of the bargain.
For this Super Bowl, it seems there were failures of planning, coordination, and communication at every level. This was evident in the days leading up to the game, from the Kennedy Museum (where officials did not just close a museum that was teeming with team but literally turned out the lights on us) to the endlessly snow-covered streets. Apparently nobody—not the NFL, the Cowboys, and not any agency of any of the local governments—arranged to have enough rock salt, snow plows, or manpower to handle the snowstorm. While such weather is somewhat atypical for the region, it was neither unprecedented nor unexpected. The Super Bowl was scheduled years in advance, yet there was either a complete failure to formulate a plan to deal with the snow or a complete failure to execute it. None of the other Super Bowls I have attended even approached this level of unpreparedness—and that was before the chaos at the Stadium itself.
My family and I arrived at Cowboys Stadium and cleared security by about 3:30 p.m., some three hours before kickoff. When we showed up at the gate listed on our ticket, we were told that there was a problem and sent to another gate at the far end of the facility. Of course, upon reaching that gate as directed, we were refused entry and sent back to the first gate again. For the next two hours, my three children and I were marched from one gate to another, through mile after mile of dense crowds, while officials tried to figure out what was to be done with us. Finally, at around 5:30 p.m., we were told that we would have to stand in line so that we might possibly get tickets and get into the game. After hours of exhausting chaos, we were assigned new tickets, and we reached our (downgraded) seats just in time for the end of the first quarter. Many of the fans who have since contacted me endured the same treatment, the same crowds, the same lines, and the same patronizing staff. Some never even made it into the game at all.
There is simply no excuse for having sold some 2,000 fans Super Bowl tickets for seats that had not yet been constructed, inspected, and approved. There is no reason these seats could not have been fully installed and approved before the season, or even during the six-week period between the last Cowboys’ home game and the Super Bowl. If this was not possible, then the tickets should never have been sold. It is outrageous for the NFL to sell to its fans tickets for seats which may or may not be safe, or which may or may not be available, all in an attempt to set a new attendance record. And the deplorable treatment on game day only compounds the outrage.
Ultimately, we displaced fans are just that—fans. We purchased not just the tickets themselves, but thousands more on travel, lodging, food, drink, entertainment, etc., all for the chance to go to the Super Bowl and cheer on your team, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The NFL did not hold up its end of the bargain, and we are entitled to compensation, and, frankly, an apology. Many of us have been harmed to the tune of ten thousand dollars or more in out-of-pocket expenses. That said, a fan, as such, would rather not file a lawsuit against the League, just as, I presume, the League does not want to litigate against its fans.
This letter, then, is an invitation. I suspect we all actually agree that the displaced fans deserve to be fairly compensated and that it is good business and good public relations to do so early and amicably. Perhaps, by bringing so many others together and approaching you in this way, I might facilitate that outcome. I would certainly be happy to take some offer of resolution back to my fellow fans.
The NFL has the opportunity to right this wrong and to heal its relationship with its fans. I sincerely hope we might be able to bring that about. Please contact me as soon as possible if this is something you wish to pursue.
Very Truly Yours,
Shawn T. Flaherty, Esq.
cc: Dallas Cowboys, c/o Mr. Jerry Jones