I am not a big Washington Redskins fan for several reasons.
a) Their name is a racial slur.
It would be hard to find a more loyal fan of the Washington Redskins than real estate agent Pat Hill. She’s had season tickets since the early 1960s, when her daughter danced in the halftime shows at the old D.C. Stadium, before it was renamed in memory of Robert F. Kennedy.
In the hallway of her modest home south of Alexandria, the 72-year-old grandmother points out the burgundy-and-gold Redskins hook rug she made. In her bedroom, she shows off the pennants from two Redskins Super Bowl games she attended, and she opens a music box on her dresser that plays "Hail to the Redskins."
Now, Hill says, her beloved Redskins are forcing her into bankruptcy.
Last year, Hill’s real estate sales were hit hard by the housing market crash, and she told the team that she could no longer afford her $5,300-a-year contract for two loge seats behind the end zone. Hill said she asked the Redskins to waive her contract for a year or two.
The sales office declined.
On Oct. 8, the Redskins sued Hill in Prince George’s County Circuit Court for backing out of a 10-year ticket-renewal agreement after the first year. The team sought payment for every season through 2017, plus interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Hill couldn’t afford a lawyer. She did not fight the lawsuit or even respond to it because, she said, she believes that the Bible says that it is morally wrong not to pay your debts. The team won a default judgment of $66,364.
"It really breaks my heart," Hill said, her voice cracking as the tears well and spill. "I don’t even believe in bankruptcy.
"We are supposed to pay our bills. I ain’t trying to get out of anything."
Hill is one of 125 season ticket holders who asked to be released from multiyear contracts and were sued by the Redskins in the past five years. The Washington Post interviewed about two dozen of them. Most said that they were victims of the economic downturn, having lost a job or experiencing some other financial hardship.
So letâ€™s look at this. She has to pay $66,364 and the team gets to resell those tickets for approximately the same value again. Oh yeah, they have 160,000 people on a waiting list for some season tickets.
There are some decent teams. The following National Football League teams said they do not sue their fans over season ticket contracts: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.
Itâ€™s not even a Washington thing.
Officials of most Washington area sports franchises that have season ticket accounts said they generally avoid such lawsuits. Nate Ewell, spokesman for the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, said he could not think of a reason to sue a ticket holder. When a season ticket holder fails to make payments, the team cancels the tickets and resells them.
What a novel idea.
Update: The Washington Redskins backed down and withdrew the lawsuit. Kudos to the Washington Post for bringing the story to light.