Much partnered with Access Living, a leading disability service and advocacy center, in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on September 13, 2023, alleging the Chicago White Sox have discriminatory ticket sales practices and that the organization refuses to offer equal benefits to people with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The suit alleges that the White Sox refuse to sell ADA-accessible season tickets on their website. This forces people with disabilities who want season tickets to call to make a purchase, limiting the seats they can purchase to the few offered over the phone instead of allowing them to choose from all unsold accessible seats like standard season ticket purchasers can do on the website.
The suit also alleges the White Sox have discriminatory restrictions on the website sale of accessible single-game tickets, only offering a small percentage of accessible seats for sale, and frequently limiting them to only certain areas of the stadium or certain games during the year. For the majority of this season, the suit alleges that the White Sox website primarily offered accessible seating in the outfield or upper deck. Only after the White Sox were assured of not making the playoffs did the White Sox release some accessible seats for sale closer to the infield on the main level.
Much filed the suit on behalf of two plaintiffs with disabilities: Ralph Yaniz, a former regional vice president for the AARP and counselor, and Douglas McCormick, a longtime season ticket holder who worked for the scaffolding company that was part of the construction of Guaranteed Rate Field where the White Sox play.
McCormick, who now needs mobility assistance, tried to change his season ticket seats to accessible seats and was told no.
“Imagine helping in the construction of the home stadium for your team and being told you can’t buy season tickets to go to games there,” said McCormick. “Well, that’s exactly what the White Sox told me after decades of supporting them.”
Yaniz, who also has mobility needs, was turned away when he tried to buy season tickets online, and he’s struggled to find appropriate accessible seating for individual games for sale online as well, describing the options as limited.
“It’s outrageous for aging and disabled fans like me to be treated this way,” said Yaniz. “Accessible seats should be open to those who need them in every section of the ballpark.”
Title III of the ADA requires all public commercial businesses and their physical locations, such as the White Sox and Guaranteed Rate Field, to take affirmative steps to ensure that their facilities, goods, and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The lack of season tickets for accessible seating and withholding of available single-game accessible seating reduces the value of the experience of following their team, violating clear requirements stated by Title III. Additionally, limiting the availability of many sections to only less valuable parts of the season further demonstrates an ongoing discriminatory process in conflict with Title III.
The suit asks the court to declare that the White Sox current practice of not offering for sale all unsold wheelchair-accessible seats in White Sox Park for season tickets and individual game tickets violates the ADA.
The suit also asks the court to declare that the White Sox current practice of limiting single-game tickets for wheelchair-accessible seats to only certain areas of the White Sox Park despite the wide availability of wheelchair-accessible seating in the Park itself violates the ADA; with initiating a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Defendant ordering them to 1) offer season tickets for wheelchair-accessible seats on its website and through all other methods of ticket purchase, 2) offer all unsold wheelchair-accessible seats for sale on its website and through all other methods of ticket purchase during the same stages of ticket sales as are available to purchasers who do not require accessible seats, and 3) offer all unsold wheelchair-accessible seats for sale on its website and other methods of ticket purchase for all areas of White Sox Park that have accessible seating.
“It is incredibly frustrating and disheartening to see people with disabilities have to resort to legal action just so they can enjoy a sport dear to American culture,” said Charles Petrof, senior attorney for Access Living.
“Disabled people deserve to enjoy the same passions as everyone else, and federal law has made this clear when it comes to public accommodations. Baseball is America’s game and with the White Sox long legacy in Chicago and the team’s variety of fans, the White Sox should want every one of them – including those with disabilities – to be able to enjoy a game,” said Steve Blonder, principal at Much.