Pay Up Or The Miami Heat Will Break Your Thumbs

Hey, the economy’s tough. I understand. My dinner last night was a bottle of soda. You’ve got to pull in those dollars wherever you can. Still, maybe it’s not the best business practice for a pro sports team to be suing its season ticket holders.

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have filed 16 lawsuit in the past year against fans and companies who they say owe $1.6 million in unpaid ticket fees. For comparison’s sake, that’s risking incalculably bad PR to recover the cost of Smush Parker this season. But hey, Heat owner Micky Arison is only the 94th wealthiest person in the world, so clearly he needs every last dime.

Most of the suits’ targets are companies.

Royal West Properties, a Miami-based land developer, was sued in August for failing to pay almost $41,547 for six seats in Loge Box No. 224 that cost more than $71,000 last season. Ronald Fernandez, the company’s lawyer, said the tough economy led to the dispute.

”My client is a service-based company and if money doesn’t come in from the people who have to pay, then its trouble,” Fernandez said. “Nobody’s getting paid. It’s tough.”

But even worse is the actual fans who are being served.

Some of those being sued by the Heat are making an unusual defense for why they didn’t pay in full: The team was lousy last season. It finished with the NBA’s worst record.

The team ”failed to provide a product that it had advertised to the general public” prior to entering the agreement,” says Fort Lauderdale resident Deborah Cremer in court documents filed in response to a suit. She admits owing $19,175 on four seats in Loge Box No. 276 that cost about $33,000 last season.

That’s spectacular. That takes huge balls. “Your team sucks so I shouldn’t have to pay to watch them.” I’m attending the Knicks game tomorrow, and I think I just figured a way to avoid paying.

Obviously these people signed contracts, and failed to live up to them. Meanwhile, a multi-billionaire owner is suing struggling folks for walking around money. Like most disputes in the business of sports, there are no sympathetic figures here.