Businessman Ken Lanci suing Cleveland Browns, NFL over PSL contract violation from lockout
Published: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 10:45 PM Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011, 10:43 AM
By Pat Galbincea, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer
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John Kuntz / The Plain DealerWhen NFL players went on strike in 1982, reducing the season from 16 to nine games, no teams had PSLs.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Businessman Ken Lanci sued the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and the league's 31 other teams on Thursday, aiming to save the upcoming football season.
Lanci says in the suit that the lockout violates his private seat license contract with the Browns and jeopardizes his right to watch a full season of home games.
He filed the suit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, asking the court to prohibit the lockout that threatens to cancel the 2011-12 NFL season (Download a copy of the lawsuit )
The 60-year-old Gates Mills resident said he is hoping to make a difference with this suit.
Allison Carey, The Plain DealerKen Lanci
"What tipped the scale for me is the labor issue between millionaires and billionaires and the fact they can't settle it when the country is in a recession," he said. "Worse yet, they have to rub this in our faces."
Lanci, a self-made millionaire, ran as an independent for Cuyahoga County executive last year in a mostly self-financed campaigned. He lost. But he became known, partly for his thick white hair that contrasted with the orange glow he gained from his personal tanning bed.
Lanci owns PSLs for 10 seats in Club Section C3, which he bought in October 1997. People pay an upfront fee for a PSL that gives them the right to purchase a season ticket for a specific seat in a stadium.
He is in effect saying the lockout robs him of his right to watch games this season because his PSL contract gives him "exclusive use and possession" of 10 specified seats in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
On March 10, the NFL Players Association decertified itself as the union for NFL players to avoid a strike, but a day later team owners nonetheless announced the lockout.
"The owners and players can't decide what to do with an extra billion dollars between them," Lanci said. "I have the perfect solution. That one billion should go to all cities that gave them money to build football stadiums they couldn't afford to build. This would give these cities badly needed tax relief."
The lawsuit caught the Browns by surprise, said Neal Gulkis, a team spokesman. He said he could not comment until the organization could study the suit.
Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the NFL, said the league would look into the matter further before commenting.
Lanci, who owns Graphic Arts Centre and is chairman and chief executive officer of Consolidated Graphics Group Inc. in Cleveland, is hoping to be a voice for the average Browns fan.
"The players union says NFL owners are offering what will be the worst deal ever," Lanci said. "Really? How about being unemployed? Right now they get 59 percent of the take, and that's beyond comprehension.
"These players should get on their knees and be grateful they can play a game for that kind of money when so many others in this city and country are hurting financially."
When NFL players went on strike in 1982, reducing the season from 16 to nine games, no teams had PSLs.
Today, 20 of the 32 teams -- mostly those with newer stadiums -- offer them. The Carolina Panthers were the first team to offer them in 1993, and the Browns followed upon their return to the NFL in 1999 after a three-year absence.
Lanci does not consider his lawsuit frivolous. He is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
But does he really expect to win the suit?
"At the end of the day, [Cuyahoga County Common Pleas] Judge John P. O'Donnell has to judge if this suit has merit or not," he said, "but I'm sure the court of public opinion will certainly weigh in on this."