Bankrupt Detroit Shakes Down Lions, Tigers Fans, Lawsuit Charges

Detroit Bankruptcy

When Lions fan and attorney Neal Brand attempted to point out that a federal court overturned Detroit prohibitions on reselling tickets at face value, police officer Deborah Gaines allegedly told him to “take it up with a judge or someone else that may care.” So he did.

Brand and four other fans of the Detroit Lions and Tigers argue in a federal lawsuit that the city not only violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by citing fans for reselling tickets at cost, but it ignores a 2006 federal decision that found Detroit’s ordinance prohibiting such transactions unconstitutional on those grounds. In effect, the suit accuses law enforcers of acting as law breakers.

“It’s a big shakedown,” Brand tells Breitbart Sports of Detroit police citing fans outside of Ford Field and Comerica Park. “They do anything they can to get money out of people.”

The legal brief claims that a father and daughter merely standing outside of Ford Field, with no intention of selling their tickets, received citations from an overzealous police officer.

“Thomas Crace, along with his daughter Candice Walters, was in Detroit on December 7 to attend a Detroit Lions game,” the lawsuit notes. “He was not reselling tickets. Crace and Walters were standing outside Ford Field and cited for vending because the police unreasonably suspected that they may sell their tickets. Crace and Walters were forced to fly from Utah to Detroit to defend these allegations.”

Defendants face as much as 90 days in jail and a fine based on the judge’s discretion for violating the ordinance. For Crace and Walters, defending the citation—they ultimately paid the city several hundred dollars—came at the expense of travel back to Detroit from Utah this winter. The litigants believe more than a hundred others endured similar harassment from money-hungry agents of Detroit’s city government and hope to add their grievances to their case.

Brand’s suit argues that the “police violated the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by issuing vendoring citations to suspected ticket resellers in spite of the relevant ticket ordinance being stricken as unconstitutional by this court.” Brand claims the city attempts to run an end-around on the law by invoking an anti-vending statute in justifying the busts of sports fans. “The Plaintiffs cannot lawfully be arrested or detained for an activity that is not only not illegal,” the suit holds, “but deemed legal by a Federal court.”

Brand seeks redress in the same court that overturned parts of Detroit’s ordinance on secondary-market sales of tickets outside of certain sports venues. In Carroll v. Detroit, a federal court found the city’s “security” and “traffic” concerns justifying the ban on such exchanges specious, and flagged the defendant for its acknowledged selective enforcement in permitting re-sales outside of Joe Louis Arena but restricting them outside of Comerica Park and Ford Field. The 2006 decision pointed out that the wording of the ordinance actually outlawed a ticket holder from paying back, in the vicinity of the venue, the friend or family member who purchased a group of tickets, i.e., criminalizing normal behavior undertaken by thousands of fans every game.

The current litigation does not challenge the city’s rules against so-called “scalpers,” entrepreneurs often wearing track suits and using course language who sell tickets at above cost to fans near stadia. Like Carroll v. Detroit, Brand v. Detroit pertains to fans selling tickets for cost or less.

Brand, so devoted to the Lions that he traveled to London last fall to watch them defeat the Atlanta Falcons, remains committed to supporting the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, and Red Wings. It’s the police officers acting as de facto tax collectors for a bankrupt city that he could do without. “I love the Lions,” Brand points out. “I love all the Detroit sports teams.”

More so than even the Lions, Brand roots for the Constitution. “When people’s constitutional rights and property rights are infringed upon,” the lawyer/Lions fan tells Breitbart Sports, “that’s when I step in.”