The Tennessee Titans Are Doing Shady Things To Keep Their Sellout Streak Alive

The Titans claimed they sold out this game. Seriously.
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The Titans claimed they sold out this game. Seriously.

The Tennessee Titans made a deal with a prominent ticket scalper to keep their transparently bogus 16-year sellout streak alive, according to Nashville’s News Channel 5. Football teams making deals with the secondary market is nothing all that surprising, but what they conceded in exchange for their hollow sellouts is disturbing.

Former Titans Executive Vice President Don MacLachlan helped broker the deal with scalper Cole Rubin, and he described the nature of the deal:

MacLachlan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the ticket-office strategy was to make Rubin “the main guy” for scalping the Titans’ tickets. The goal was to eliminate other brokers who “cheapen the market.” The ticket-office staff was “trying to up the value” of Titans tickets, MacLachlan said.

“Rubin,” he added, “was trying to reduce some of his competition” at the Titans’ stadium, LP Field.

So the Titans sold large chunks of tickets to a scalper with the expressed purpose being to artificially drive up prices, and in exchange got to keep their sellouts (in name only). That stings Titans fans doubly because of the organization’s public stance on secondary markets. An advocate for reducing restrictions on ticket sales predictably called the practice “hypocritical,” but News Channel 5 explains why that’s true:

[T]he Titans prohibit ticket scalping around the stadium, the team claims the right to keep fans from transferring their personal seat licenses (PSLs) to ticket brokers and it pushes the NFL TicketExchange as the only safe place for the resale of tickets to Titans games.

In other words, the Titans engage in the exact practices they threaten against fans. Fantastic. Of course, it’s likely many other teams have similar deals, but to see it laid out so bare (with so many people involved going on the record) is still striking.

So why do the Titans care about their sellout streak? Because of the NFL’s ludicrous blackout rules, which (until this upcoming season) prevented NFL games from being broadcast in their home markets if the game isn’t sold out.

On its face, it’s a sort of reasonable policy designed to encourage fans to go to the stadium rather than stay at home watching the game. But in practice, it’s so punitive that teams without long histories or current success (like the Titans or the Jacksonville Jaguars, the most frequent blackout victims) are forced to either drop prices until they’re cheap enough to encourage more fans to come (like that would ever happen), or more likely, find creative ways to lie about selling out so that they can still charge high prices without preventing fans at home from watching.

Thankfully, the blackout rule has been temporarily lifted for the 2015 season, and maybe beyond. That would be welcome, since watching sad-sack franchises like the Titans resort to shady back-room deals with scalpers to allow fans to watch their game on TV is embarrassing for all involved.

(Via News Channel 5)