In a box seat just behind home plate, several fans watching the Arizona Diamondbacks battle it out in their series opener were asked to take it off. The fans, in prime viewing area, were wearing Los Angeles Dodgers gear.
Their seats, $3,250-$3,500 box seats, are consistently shown in photos, videos, and any shots of the batters. Anyone watching the game would have noticed the blue and white instead of Arizona’s grey and maroon. Ken Kendrick, a Diamondbacks owner, noticed this and requested the group either change seats or change clothes.
Rather than relocate to another box, where they were told they would be reimbursed for the difference, the fans elected to keep their seats and change into the Diamondbacks gear that was brought to them. This shift was noticed by many and is under much consideration: Was Ken Kendrick stepping over the line in requesting a change? Sure, no team wants the rival’s colors boldly exhibited at its field, but does that mean it’s right to ask paying customers to change their clothes or move?
It should be noted that these seats come with the request that the occupants wear the Diamondbacks’ colors. They may, of course, cheer for whomever they choose, but for the sake of appearance, fans are given that simple request. Paul Bender, a professor of law at Arizona State University said, “It sounds kind of small-minded, but I would think they probably have the legal right to do that, especially if they let people know in advance that that’s the rule.” As the fans were notified of the rule, Bender is right. Even if Kendrick comes off as the bad guy, legally, he’s in the clear.
Yahoo! Sports writer Mark Townsend said, “You already have their money, so as long as they’re not wearing something offensive (division rival colors and logos don’t count) why not let them wear what they want?” But he is missing the point. The request had nothing to do with money—the fans were going to be compensated for a move. It’s about appearances.
Professional sports, in an arena, are a sort of theater. Fans pay as much for the show as they do for the game. No game in the world is worth $3,500. This isn’t about the cost of the tickets or the team’s gains from sales. It’s about image.
A team can live and die by its image. A city can live or die by its team’s image. The Diamondbacks have every right to maintain their brand however they choose. Diamondback fans at home don’t want to see another team’s colors on show in the best seats in the house. Dress codes are perfectly acceptable anywhere. Restaurants, clubs, businesses, schools—all have a certain image to project, and in the interest of their own brand, they ask that people abide by their rules. People who don’t follow suit are sometimes provided with alternate options, sometimes denied admission. There’s no reason Ken Kendrick can’t instate the same policies for his prominent box seats.
That said, it may not be the best business practice. Rivals’ fans will feel unwelcome, and if enough sports writers continue to berate Kendrick for his decision, he may become less than popular.
Still, though, all the world’s a stage, and when you enter stage left at Chase Field, you’d best be in costume.