TAMPA, Fla. — Former supers fans are turning on their beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the long-time season ticket holders had their privileges revoked.
Sean Fontaine said he is outraged and hurt that the team he grew up watching would treat him so poorly.
“There’s no fan loyalty the way we showed loyalty to them,” Fontaine said.
On Thursday, a class action lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County. The suit alleges Fontaine and another fan, Louis Mendel, had their tickets revoked for “no legitimate reason.”
The suit alleges that the Bucs are in breach of their contract, contract renewal rights, unjust enrichment, misrepresentation, and other violations.
Fontaine said they gave their tickets away to friends or sold them for six games during the 2016 season. In one instance, Fontaine and his wife Melissa said they went on a cruise so they missed a Sunday and Thursday game in the same week.
Fontaine said the team encouraged them to sell their tickets through the NFL ticket exchange website. They said they followed the Bucs requests and ended up being penalized for it.
“You can’t do this to your loyal season ticket holders even if it’s for profit. We’ve been there through the thick and thin when no one wanted to show up we were still there and you should be rewarding us,” Fontaine said.
The suit alleges that when Fontaine tried to reach out to the Bucs to figure out what was going on he was told “too bad, the decision had been made,” and the Bucs Director of Sales, Deno Agnoste, hung up the phone on him.
The team told Fontaine he violated a Bucs policy barring the resale of tickets.
Fontaine’s attorney Luke Lirot said the Bucs mistreated their fans for money and made up the policy violation to have a reason to revoke their season tickets and sell them to new fans at a higher price.
“I don’t know that any fan base can withstand this kind of abuse, this kind of bullying, it amazed me. I couldn’t even believe that they did it,” Lirot said. “It’s disappointing they would choose funds over fans.”
The Bucs told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska they would not comment on pending litigations.
But, during previous reports on this issue an official with the Bucs told ABC Action News they do encourage fans to use the NFL ticket exchange website, but they're starting to go after a small percentage of season ticket holders who repeatedly resell more than half of their tickets; many times they are resold to fans of the visiting team.
In an emailed statement about the ticket re-sale policy, Brian Ford, the Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer said:
To ensure that Buccaneers fans have the best opportunity to purchase season pass memberships in the most desirable locations, we have made the decision to stop selling memberships to a limited number of account holders that have been identified as ticket resellers to opposing team fans.
Our top priority is providing our fans with a best-in-class experience when they attend games at Raymond James Stadium. By providing our most passionate fans with access to the best seats, we create the type of home field advantage that our players feed off on game days. Fans from opposing teams will still have the option to purchase individual tickets in various locations around the stadium or may choose to sit in designated visiting fan sections which we have provided.
The Buccaneers added the right to revoke tickets is in the fine print.
Fontaine and his wife Melissa said they spent the 2017 football season driving to Jacksonville. They said they love football and loved watching the Bucs but are now season ticket holders for the Jaguars.
“The customer service is unbelievable there and their all about the fan experience which is something we never really had,” Melissa Fontaine said. “There is a difference between the two teams as far as the way they treat their fans.”
Both said they will not be stepping foot in Raymond James Stadium to cheer on the Bucs ever again.
“The wounds are so deep I don’t feel comfortable going there anymore,” Melissa Fontaine said.
Lirot said any fan that had their tickets revoked might be able to join this class action lawsuit. He estimated more than 1,400 fans were impacted.