Last Sunday, it felt like more people were tweeting about Jordan Love’s family than his on-field play. As the Packers quarterback took on the Chiefs, his mom, Anna Love, and his girlfriend, Ronika Stone, garnered attention when the Fox broadcast cameras used their most powerful lens to zoom in and find the two women sitting at the very top of Arrowhead Stadium, their backs against the stadium wall. Headlines described the seats as “stuck in the last row,” “the worst seats,” and “on the moon.”
It’s rare that a starting quarterback’s family is seen on camera with seats this bad. But after a little bit of digging, it turns out that this isn’t any specific vendetta against Love. It’s just the way things have always been with home teams handing out bad seats to their visitors.
“It is true, the ticket stuff—they will put the [visiting] team’s family in some of the worst spots in the stadium in the top row,” Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday on the Pat McAfee Show. “I always think about Chicago, where they put those seats, up in the top, top right, cold area, where the wind hammers them at that point.”
Section 9 of the 2020 NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement says that teams give each player two free tickets to home games. On the road, “each player will be afforded the opportunity to purchase two (2) tickets for each away game of his Club (for personal use and not for resale) from the best tickets available for public sale immediately prior to the public sale for each game,” it reads.
“Best tickets available” is a flexible term. After I spoke to a few NFL agents, it’s clear that the majority of these seats are in an undesirable section, because many home games are sold out, and teams want to prioritize their season-ticket holders and fans first. “They almost ALWAYS sit visiting team seats in the most horrific places,” Agent A said in a text.
Agent B told me over the phone that the seats are typically high, in the top corner on the goal line. They said that teams that sell out consistently usually allot their worst seats to visiting players, since they know they will sell the rest. When Al Davis ran the Oakland Raiders, Agent B said the owner would choose nicer, club-level seats for visiting players that the team hadn’t sold out. Players wouldn’t ask their teams how much the tickets were, assuming they were around $95, like everywhere else they played. “Next thing you know, they get $3,000 deducted out of their paychecks,” Agent B said. “They’d say, ‘Holy shit! Why didn’t you tell me they were $300 a pop?'”
I wanted to get more player perspective on this, and was already planning to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another story, so on Wednesday I asked a couple players about their experience with visiting tickets. Is this really how it works?
“When we were in Green Bay last year for the playoffs, I remember I had the big touchdown before the half, and I remember looking up at my parents and it was hard to see them way up there at the top deck,” Bucs receiver Scotty Miller said. “But that’s usually how it goes, I don’t know exactly why. I wish our family could sit right behind us on the bench, but usually they tuck them away somewhere where we can hardly see them.”
Bucs running back Giovani Bernard said he doesn’t even go through teams to purchase road game tickets anymore, because it’s not worth it. “I let my wife handle the away tickets,” he said. “Quite honestly, when you purchase them through the team, they are a little more expensive. So I just say, ‘Hey, go on StubHub and find some better tickets.'”
Former Raiders executive Amy Trask tweeted that the Packers are to some extent responsible for the tickets Love can get, because a “league rule requires home teams to provide visiting teams with some nice seats – GB chose to use them for others.” This aspect of the rule isn’t included in Section 9 of the CBA, but agent B repeated this rule. (The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.) The Packers also acknowledged the existence of that rule when describing their own ticket allotment to visiting teams.
Did the Packers offer Love a choice to get better tickets, or did he have to submit his request before last Wednesday, the day he found out that he’d be that week’s starter after Rodgers had tested positive for COVID-19? Back when reporters could go into locker rooms, I remember seeing sheets of paper taped to players’ lockers, reminding them to submit their ticket requests by EOD. Typically, a team’s ticket director will work on player ticket requests with someone on the football side, like the director of player development. Packers spokesperson Aaron Popkey declined to comment specifically on how they use the visiting team’s allotment of tickets and whether Love was offered a chance to buy nicer seats, because the team considers that an internal practice. Popkey also declined to comment on the specifics of the Chiefs’ arrangement.
“Generally speaking, at Lambeau Field the majority of the allotment for the visiting team is located across the upper rows of various sections within the 700 level in the south end zone,” Popkey wrote in an email to Defector. “These locations are consistent with what we receive at other venues when we travel. A limited number of seats in lower seating sections are available to the visiting team.”
It isn’t tough to get an upgrade, though. Trask tweeted that any time she asked the home team for a few better tickets, she got them. The agents I spoke with said the same thing. “It’s a simple email or phone call and they are in the club section,” Agent A said.
I reached out to Jordan’s mom Anna to ask her about her experience in the galaxy seats. She told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that she has traveled to every Packers game this season, and she went to the two COVID-restricted games she was allowed to attend last year, so I figured she might have a range of experiences.
Anna didn’t answer my call or questions, but did send me this text, which she said was OK to use as long as I didn’t portray her as complaining, because she was just happy to be in the stadium:
There’s no story here, my seats were perfectly fine & among all the other Packers family & friends. Sorry the nation felt different but glad they got entertainment from it because some of the responses that came out of it were pretty comical & laughter is good for the soul. It was a win win, I got a little exercise in going up & down the steps🤣🤣🤣
Stone, who played volleyball at Oregon and has played professionally, posted her reaction to the seats on her Instagram story, saying that “the view was better than it seemed.” She also reposted SportsCenter’s photo of their seats, saying, “I always wanted to be on sportscenter… thought it’d be for volleyball tho.”