Highbrow Yankees get “Riff-Raff” Fans

thumbnailby Addie Mister

ninjaImagine sitting in the stands at your favorite team’s stadium. You are surrounded by people dressed in similar colors, you have a hot dog in one hand, a beer in the other, and you look down towards the field to something extremely odd across the way. You see colors that seem to be out of place, yellow, green, and purple. You get a better look and you recognize these are people dressed in Ninja Turtle outfits. As crazy as this sounds, it actually happened on April 25, 2016 at Yankee Stadium.

unicornsThese outrageous costumes continued to come throughout the series opener at Yankee stadium. The Ninja Turtles were preceded by sharks and then unicorns. They came as a physical reminder of the controversy that has followed a recent decision made by the New York team. In February, the Yankees announced they would no longer be accepting print at home tickets through second hand vendors, specifically Stubhub.  Fans would now have to make the ten-minute walk to the closest Stubhub outlet to print real tickets before entering a game. According to the Yankees this decision came as a solution to fraudulent tickets which, according to Lonn Trost, is a daily battle at the stadium. He also was quoted saying:

            “The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for their ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it frustrates the purchaser of the full amount. And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

This quote embodies a major issue surrounding the Yankee’s decision: capitalism and its value in our society. The Yankees claim the intent of the ticket decision was to enhance the customer experience by fighting fraudulent tickets. According to the Chicago Tribune “with copy machines, scanners and Photoshop, it’s certainly not hard to fake a batch of game tickets.” The Yankees claims about fraudulent activity is lessened by comments from Glenn Lehrman of Stubhub who claims these fraudulent activities occur at a rate of 0.01%. Others people who think the Yankees have other motivations, believe this decision was a maneuver to control the tickets and secure a price floor. After Trost’s statement was released, those suspicious of the Yankees further believe the Yankees do not want those who pay less for the premium seats to lessen the seats value. According to Ayn Rand, a Russian-American philosopher, “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights.”  Those who suspect ill of the Yankees’ decision believe they are inhibiting the freedom capitalism enables them to have. While the Yankees are claiming fan protection, it is more evident their actions are that of a monopolistic mindset, something that does not sit well with a capitalistic society.

Stubhub is the outlet in which fans have the ability to buy the tickets and resell them at whichever price they see fit, a right afforded to them through capitalism. Trost’s statement refers to those people who buy tickets in premium seating below the value at which they were originally purchased. The problem seems to be in understanding why the Yankees even care. The tickets were purchased at the price the Yankees set and they have their money in their pocket. According to the Daily News, the organization may find fault in the idea of someone else profiting off their tickets. For the Yankees the resale of their tickets is a loss either way. If a ticket is sold above the price which the Yankees originally charged, the Yankees are losing because there was someone out there willing to pay the higher price. The Yankees do not get the difference in price, the reseller does, which is what the Daily News was referring to. If the third party sells them for under face value, the tickets are then lessened in value. The more the Yankees are able to regulate third party sales the more they become a monopolistic minded organization.

In a society that values capitalistic values, a monopoly mindset is frowned upon. In an interview about the ten minute walk from the stadium to the Stubhub office, one fan said, “I don’t know why they make fans go to extra lengths, it makes them seem a little greedy.” This fan is not alone in his thoughts about this decision. Comedian John Oliver took major offense to Trost comments in particular. He was quoted saying, “The New York Yankees will continue finding ways to look like the biggest elitist a–holes in all of sports.” The monopolistic tendencies as well as the elitist attitude felt by Oliver and many other fans leads into the second reason this situation is gaining such attention.

sharksBack to those Ninja turtles who enjoyed the game from the comforts of premium seating. These men were sent to the premium seating section of Yankee stadium by the comedian mentioned earlier named John Oliver. After seeing Trost’s comments Oliver was enraged. “He is saying rich people couldn’t bare to sit next to people who aren’t as rich.” He started a contest entitled #IHaveNeverSatInAPremiusLocation, promising “Riff-Raff” be put in those seats. People submitted photos of what crazy outfit they would wear to sit in premium seats. The winners paid twenty five cents per ticket to sit in premium seats that usually go for about one thousand dollar a piece.

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Empty seats in  Yankees’ Premium section.

In 2015 the average ticket price for an MLB game was $29.94. The average price for a Yankees ticket in that same year was $51.55. These prices have soared since the building of the new Yankee stadium in 2009. As stated by the New York Post, “Clearly, as seen from the start of the 2009 season, the better-to-best Yankees seats remain priced so insanely and obscenely high as to make both multimillionaires and corporate credit-card carriers — the original targets of such pricing — gag.” With further investigation into ticket prices, it was found that the Yankees separate premium seating from regular seating from the start. As soon as the ticket page is brought up, buyers are prompted to choose between the two types of seats. Upon choosing the premium option, it was found that the lowest ticket for the May 6th game against the Red Sox was $325, and the top price $1,600. Not only are these numbers outrageous, but they speak to the greed and the elitism that seems to surround the Yankee experience. The banning of print at home tickets was not just for fraud protection, but was another act of avarice from the Yankees.

By the end of the series the Yankees jumbotron read “Thanks, John Oliver. Everyone is welcome at Yankee Stadium.” This message was the only response from the Yankees organization. The Yankees obviously got the message from Oliver, but the question remains, everyone is welcome, but at what cost? As of today the prices of some tickets in the stadium were fifty-three times that of the average MLB ticket. The Yankees have been publicly humiliated, but their actions of the past and continuing actions of now seem as if the highbrow attitude of the Yankees will continue to be around for a while.

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