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Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

The Gift of Art

After months of negotiations, the Dallas Museum of Art announced earlier this week that it would receive what The New York Times has called "one of the most important collections of Islamic art in private hands." The collection will arrive in Dallas in May, and will be housed at the museum for at least 15 years as part of "an unusual long-term renewable loan that will give the museum the right to lend pieces to other institutions and to make objects widely available to scholars."

Called the Keir Collection, this trove of Islamic art was collected over decades in Britain by Edmund de Unger, a Hungarian real-estate magnate who passed away in 2011. The collection, consisting of around 2,000 objects, boasts many carpets, textiles and manuscripts. The agreement with the Dallas Museum of Art will elevate the museum's collection of Islamic art works to "perhaps the third most important Islamic collection in the country, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington."

This interest in and demand for Islamic art and artifacts has increased in the last decade, according to The New York Times, "as threats to major collections and historic sites in parts of the Middle East come with ever greater frequency." Just two weeks ago, for instance, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo was badly damaged after a truck bomb exploded, destroying more than 70 artifacts.


Tackling Super Bowl Ticket Prices

Claiming that the National Football League's (NFL) ticketing practices for the Super Bowl run afoul of New Jersey consumer protection law, Josh Finkelman sued the NFL in Newark federal court in December. According to The New York Times, this "is the first suit that a football fan aggrieved by the price of tickets has filed against the N.F.L." Finkelman accuses the NFL of "unjust enrichment and violating New Jersey consumer fraud law, which prohibits withholding more than 5 percent of seating from the public for any event to be sold at other than face value." He seeks class action certification. As so many fans buy their tickets from secondary sources that obtain the tickets from the NFL or from the NFL's teams, the putative class could "reach into the tens of thousands."

Although Finkelman's lawsuit will be decided long after the Seahawks' victory over the Broncos fades, the plaintiff hopes that his suit will change the way that the NFL sells tickets to the next Super Bowl. For last week's Super Bowl, Finkelman's attorneys claim that "just 1 percent, or 775 of 77,500 tickets, [were] available to the public at face value for this year's Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J." According to the stadium website, capacity for the venue is 82,500. This scarcity translates into high ticket prices. A month before Super Bowl XLVIII, the average ticket price was $3,432.90; according to the suit, the plaintiff purchased two tickets at $2,000 each, "far in excess of the face value of the tickets," which is about $500 each.

The significant difference between the face value of Super Bowl tickets and their purchased-for-price can be traced to the NFL's ticket distribution policy. The overwhelming majority of tickets to the Super Bowl is never made available to the public. In fact, 75% of the tickets are shared among the NFL's 32 teams, with roughly 25% of the remaining tickets retained by the NFL and distributed to game officials, media and corporate sponsors. According to the complaint, that means that less than 1% of tickets is made available to the public, via a ticket lottery. Those tickets are then sold at face value. The ticket lottery is held every year by mail; starting in February and concluding in June. If fans cannot purchase Super Bowls tickets through the ticket lottery, they are left with the secondary market, and the accompanying high prices. This leaves many fans unhappy, or left out of the game.

At first blush, Finkelman's suit appears to be a legal long shot, given the fact the NFL has sold Super Bowl tickets in the same manner, year after year. What was different with this Super Bowl was that it was held in New Jersey, which boasts robust consumer protection laws. Specifically, Finkelman's suit alleges that the NFL's ticket distribution policy violates Section 56:8-35.1 of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. That section reads: "[i]t shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets' release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5 percent of all available seating for the event." In other words, attorneys for the plaintiff argue, this section of the state's Consumer Fraud Act "explicitly forbids the N.F.L.'s practice of providing only 1 percent of Super Bowl tickets for sale to the public. In fact, it would seem to dictate that 95 percent of the seats must be sold that way."

The NFL maintains that its ticket distribution system is fair. "We can never fulfill all the requests for tickets. The NFL's Super Bowl ticket distribution process has been in existence for years and is well documented. We are confident it is in compliance with all applicable laws," the NFL said in response to the lawsuit.



Standing Up for Student Athletes

Northwestern University football players have taken the first step to unionization, filing a formal petition with the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If the NLRB certifies the group, the union will be known as the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). CAPA's initial goals include "medical protection for concussions," guaranteed scholarships -- even if players are injured -- and a trust fund available to players whose NCAA eligibility expires, but who wish to finish college.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) opposes the move for unionization, arguing that providing medical protections and multiyear scholarships would distract from the purpose of college, i.e. education: "[t]his union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize."


I'll Make You an Offer I Can Refuse

After years of legal wrangling, the case of the Dateline $1 million "challenge" has finally concluded.

In 2006, an Orlando attorney appeared on Dateline, saying it was impossible for his client, Nelson Serrano, to have murdered four people. The attorney, James Mason, maintained that his client was innocent of the accused crimes because to commit them in the time-frame alleged by police and prosecutors, his client would have needed to exit a plane in a busy Atlanta airport and arrive at a hotel miles away, all in less than 28 minutes. So convinced was Mason of the impossibility of this feat that he said, "I challenge anybody to show me -- I'll pay them a million dollars if they can do it." Unfortunately for Mason, someone decided to show him.

Enter Dustin Kolodziej, then a law student at South Texas College of Law. In December 2007, Kolodziej retraced Serrano's alleged route from an Atlanta airport to a La Quinta hotel five minutes away, and made a video recording of the trip. Kolodziej completed the journey in under 28 minutes, and then tried unsuccessfully to collect the $1 million. He sued Mason, claiming that Mason had made a unilateral offer to the public, which Kolodziej had accepted by traveling from the airport to the hotel in under 28 minutes. Unfortunately for Kolodziej, Mason had not made an offer to the public -- Dateline had edited Mason's comments for television. What Mason actually said was "I challenge anybody to show me, and guess what? Did they bring in any evidence to say that somebody made that route, did so? State's burden of proof. If they can do it, I'll challenge 'em. I'll pay them a million dollars if they can do it."

Weighing the tone and context of the unedited statement as a whole, U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell ruled that "[the interview] can only lead a reasonable person to but one understanding, that the words 'them' and 'they' as used throughout the entire excerpt now refers to the state prosecution." In other words, because the defendant was not communicating an offer to the world, but simply, to the prosecution, Kolodziej cannot claim that "the 'challenge' somehow constituted a valid offer and that he accepted that offer by his performance. Kolodziej cannot proceed with his claim for one million dollars by supposing, believing, imagining or hoping that an offer was made to him that simply was not."

Better luck next time?


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 7, 2014 4:10 PM.

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