THE TOUGHEST TICKET IN TOWN Suing the Fans
Washington Redskins React to Fans' Tough Luck With Tough Love
Thursday, September 3, 2009
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.
Redskins General Counsel David Donovan said the lawsuits are a last resort that involve a small percentage of the team's 20,000 annual premium seat contracts. He added that the team has accommodated people in hard-luck circumstances hundreds of times. He said he was unaware of Pat Hill's case.
"The Washington Redskins routinely works out payment plans and alternate arrangements with hundreds of ticket holders every year," Donovan said. "For every one we sue, I would guess we work out a deal with half a dozen."