North Texas

“It's Our Responsibility”: NFL Commissioner Testifies at Super Bowl Seats Trial

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified in a video deposition played Wednesday at the North Texas Super Bowl seats trial in Dallas federal court.

Goodell said he relied on people under him who provided assurances that temporary seats were being installed as planned for Super Bowl XLV in Arlington.

"Everyone was fully aware of the consequences and the need to address the issue," Goodell said in the August 2013 recording.

Goodell said he did not mention seating concerns for fans at a Feb. 4, 2011, press conference, two days before the game, because he was still under the impression the seats would be ready.

"My comments were very brief and I was there to answer the questions from the media," he said.

By game time about 1,200 sets were still not approved by city inspectors. Approximately 400 fans who never got seats that day were taken to a club below the seating area where they watched the game on TV. They were allowed on the field after the game.

One of those fans is plaintiff David Wanta, a Wausau, Wis., school teacher. Wanta testified Wednesday that he took out a $5,000 loan at his credit union and used savings that upset his wife, to see his beloved Green Bay Packers in the 2011 Super Bowl.

He and plaintiff Ken Laffin paid $800 for each of their tickets. They flew from Madison, Wis., to Denver and then to Oklahoma City, where they rented a car because icy weather that year made the rest of the trip impossible by plane.

At the game they were blocked from entry and corralled in a fenced area with other angry fans whose seats were not ready.

Wanta testified he never would have made the trip if he'd known he would end up watching the game on television.

But an attorney for the NFL questioned Wanta on the $7,245 in total expenses he claimed for the trip. It included $320 in taxi cab fares, $565 in food, $800 of incidentals and $1,000 for events other than the Super Bowl.

Wanta said he purchased Packers clothing and wanted to make the most of the disappointing experience since they made the long trip.

The NFL has already settled with hundreds of other fans, offering refunds and trips to subsequent Super Bowls. In opening statements an NFL attorney said these plaintiffs made excessive demands.

The Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones were responsible for temporary seat construction at the stadium for the 2011 Super Bowl. Jones and the team are not defendants in the lawsuit, but Jones is expected to be a witness in the trial.

NFL officials have said icy weather before the game was a big factor in failing to have all the seats ready but that the league accepts responsibility for what went wrong. Goodell repeated that in the deposition heard Wednesday.

"Ultimately it's our responsibility," Goodell said. "It is our responsibility to put the event on and make sure fans have a positive experience."

The trial could last two weeks. The threat of freezing weather ended Wednesday's session at 1:30 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn told jurors to return at 1 p.m. Thursday after the threat of icy roads has passed. Goodell's video deposition will continue Thursday.

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