1906 Ultras lift self-imposed chanting ban, but call team-imposed travel ban 'illegal'

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes' largest supporters group says they are taking legal action presumably because they are being denied the "right" to buy tickets.

UPDATE: I was contacted by a leader of 1906 Ultras and told that the group has no plans to sue the Earthquakes but that some individual members are considering legal action.

After staying silent for one game, the 1906 Ultras were back in full voice for the San Jose Earthquakes' match against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Why is this worth noting? Well, it's because 1906 had made a bit of a stink about staging a protest as long as they were banned from traveling.

Although the travel ban is still in place, 1906 issued a multi-part statement via Twitter with this being the key part:

And this is where the situation goes from potentially amusing to potentially interesting. It turns out that 1906 are either in the process of suing the Earthquakes or threatening to do so, at least based on their iOS Notes-based release.

Without getting into the particulars of the hows and whys of the travel ban or its extension, it would appear that 1906 are citing a 1982 court ruling as justification for their claim that the Earthquakes are engaging in an illegal activity. Although 1906 didn't really get into their justification, I was able to find some literature about the case (it's actually Marina Point Ltd v. Wolfson, not Wilson). Best I can tell, 1906 are claiming that they are being discriminated against because of their supporter status.

It strikes me as a very broad interpretation of the ruling, but to their point, the ruling does use some broad language:

Derived from the early common law right of equal access to the services of innkeepers or common carriers, the Unruh Act prohibits business establishments from withholding their services or goods from a broad class of individuals in order to "cleanse" their operations from the alleged characteristics of the members of an excluded class.

As our prior decisions teach, the Unruh Act preserves the traditional broad authority of owners and proprietors of business establishments to adopt reasonable rules regulating the conduct of patrons or tenants; it imposes no inhibitions on an owner's right to exclude any individual [30 Cal.3d 726] who violates such rules. Under the act, however, an individual who has committed no such misconduct cannot be excluded solely because he falls within a class of persons whom the owner believes is more likely to engage in misconduct than some other group. Whether the exclusionary policy rests on the alleged undesirable propensities of those of a particular race, nationality, occupation, political affiliation, or age, in this context the Unruh Act protects individuals from such arbitrary discrimination.

Obviously, I'm no lawyer but I can at least see why 1906 feel as though they have some legal footing. I imagine the question becomes whether or not 1906 members are being denied the opportunity to attend games or simply the opportunity to sit together. Conversely, there is probably a question as to whether or not teams have the right pick and choose who they sell tickets to.

(Note: Being as this is a 31-year-old ruling, I should also add that I have no idea if other rulings have narrowed the scope.)

As silly as it may seem to me for a supporters' group to sue the team they support, if this actually goes in front of a judge it could set some interesting legal precedent for how teams interact with their most vocal fans. As it is now, virtually every team has a different policy when it comes to distributing their away ticket allocation and some teams even deny at-large sales to visiting fans. As this is California law, it might not be applied to teams in other states, but, like I said, this could get interesting.

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