Share story

RENO, Nev. – John E. Williams III has been a San Francisco 49ers fan since John Brodie was throwing touchdown passes at Candlestick Park in the 1970s. So he was excited about the prospects of scoring a ticket to make the trip to Seattle in January to watch the 49ers and Seahawks play in the NFC Championship Game.

But the Las Vegas man — in a $50 million lawsuit against the league — contends his hopes were dashed by NFL and others he accuses of engaging in “economic discrimination” with an illegal ticket policy limiting credit-card sales to selected pro-Seattle markets.

His lawsuit, filed April 15 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, says it was part of an effort to keep 49ers fans away and further promote the Seahawks’ home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field.

“They’re always boasting up there about their 12th player and everything else,” Williams told The Associated Press. “But by allowing the NFL to decide who can or cannot attend the games, you make it an unfair game. Seattle fixed it.”

This week, save 90% on digital access.

Williams, a promoter in the entertainment industry, said because the league relies on public subsidies and money from taxpayers to build stadiums, it should not be allowed to deny ticket sales to individuals on the basis they are “not from an area determined by the team — or the NFL — to be fan of that team.”

In the case of January’s game, the Seahawks limited ticket sales to credit cards with addresses in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

“This selected process is contrary to the spirit of the NFL and contrary to public accommodation,” said Williams, who is seeking $10 million in punitive damages on top of $40 million in real damages.

Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications, said the league has no comment on the lawsuit. The Seahawks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.