The Miami Marlins have become the poster child for bad public relations in professional sports.
Owner Jeff Loria has basically swindled money from taxpayers to help buy for a new stadium, compiled a formidable roster full of big name free agents, and then imploded the aforementioned roster in less than two years. Now, here comes another example of bad relations with its fans.
According to a report from the Miami New Times, the team has threatened to file a lawsuit against season-ticket holders, who complained the view from their seats was obstructed by a billboard advertisement.
Season ticket holders Bill and Jan Leon said they paid over $25,000 for two seats along the third-base line for the inaugural season at Marlins Park last year. Things were all fine and dandy (except for the Marlins' performance on the field) until Miami put up a billboard during midseason that the Leons allege blocked part of their view and put the couple at a greater risk for being struck by a foul ball.
The Leons made multiple requests via phone and letter asking the team to lower the height of the billboard, or to move the season ticket holders to a new location. However, they claim those requests were never answered.
So, once the 2012 campaign came to an end, the Leons informed the Marlins that they would not be renewing their tickets for the 2013 season. There was only one problem with that, though. The Leons signed a two-year season ticket agreement in 2010 which required them to purchase tickets for both 2012 and 2013. When the invoice came for the 2013 season, the Leons refused to pay it, citing the fact that the team refused to handle resolve their precarious situation.
"They've pooped on fans' feelings for years," Jan Leon said. "These seats are not what we paid for. ... They wouldn't (move us). We're just tired of fighting constantly over our view being blocked and our safety endangered. ... I have no intention of renewing. They're a Double-A team now. It went down the toilet when they sold off all the players."
Once the team received word that the Leons had no intention of paying, they took action. The couple received a letter from Marlins vice president and general counsel Derek Jackson earlier this month telling the Leons that they are contractually obligated to renew their season ticket package. And if the Marlins haven't received payment by the end of the month, they are ready to take "all appropriate legal and equitable remedies available" to collect the money.
The team responded to the Times' initial report with the following statement that read:
Fan comfort is of utmost importance to us. We go above and beyond to ensure our fans have a great experience at Marlins Park. We have offered Ms. Leon numerous opportunities to move to a different seat location, and each time she has refused to move. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to relocate the advertising signage that she alleges is blocking her view of certain plays near third base. We would be happy to assist Ms. Leon in relocating her tickets to seats that do not have this allegedly obstructed view. We value our fans and will continue to do our very best to offer them a wonderful baseball experience.Their version of the story obviously contradicts the one told by the Leons, who claim that they weren't offered a solution or answer to their problem.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Leons may have a tough time wiggling out of this jam. While I respect their motive, they will probably end up paying the roughly $25,000 that they owe. But from the Marlins standpoint, could they be approaching this matter any worse?
The Marlins should be doing everything that they can to hold on to the few remaining fans who aren't ticked off at them. Honestly, I would have jumped ship a long time ago if I was a fan of the Fish.
Via Big League Stew