A New Orleans Saints season ticket holder is taking widespread fan backlash to player protests during the national anthem to the next level, filing a lawsuit demanding an $8,000 refund from the team.
Lee Dragna, of Morgan City, filed the lawsuit last week in a judicial district court in Gretna, claiming an alleged demonstration during the team’s Sept. 17 home game against the New England Patriots created an angry atmosphere that's since made his tickets unusable.
“I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that those are their heroes…and it’s OK to do that stuff, especially on TV and especially on your job site," Dragna told the New Orleans Advocate. "That can’t be allowed to happen.”
The lawsuit says “some of the Saints players refused to take the field until after the national anthem” during the Week 2 game against New England.
“As they entered the field after the national anthem they passed directly in front of where the petitioner and his guests were seated. Many of the fans in that area booed and cursed at the Saints players,” according to the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by FOX8. The suit also mentions similar protests in subsequent games against the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions.
Dragna, a businessman, is seeking attorney’s fees and a refund for the tickets he owns -- 25 rows back on the 20-yard line -- which cost around $8,000 total, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
He told the newspaper the alleged player reaction and hostile fan response at the Patriots game made the tickets unusable by him and his family -- and customers he would give them to.
“The Saints created that behavior by condoning it,” said Dragna, noting he has already asked the team for a refund but was denied. “They don’t even want to talk about this, but I don’t care. One way or another they’ll pay.”
The Saints' director of football communications and publications, Justin Macione, told Fox News in an email the lawsuit “has been turned over to our legal counsel and we have no comment on this.”
Mark Ingram, the team’s running back, also disputed Dragna’s claim the players protested against the national anthem during the Patriots game.
“The one time we protested an anthem was an away game,” he tweeted Tuesday, referring to a Week 3 demonstration against Carolina. “After a team meeting we decided to kneel as one BEFORE the anthem was played and STAND united as one DURING the anthem! Good luck dude.”
Reports from news organizations monitoring the Anthem protests also did not note Saints players protesting during the Patriots game. The Saints, since that game, have gone 5-0 at home and sit atop the hotly-contested NFC South division with a 9-4 record, tied with the Panthers.
The action of kneeling during the national anthem was started in 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick due to perceived police brutality against minorities in America.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told reporters at the time.
But Dragna is not the only person hitting back at the Saints for the team's alleged protests.
The New Orleans Advocate reported two Saints players saw their invitations to be grand marshals of a Mardi Gras parade rescinded due to the protests because organizers were “not interested in having any controversial figures representing us.”
A disabled Navy veteran also rejected an invite from the team to receive an award at a November game since he is “unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails.”
Some legal experts that spoke to the New Orleans Advocate predicted that Dragna’s lawsuit has “little chance of success.
“Fans do not have legal standing or a cause of action simply because they are unhappy with how a team performs or acts on the field,” said Gabe Feldman, director of Tulane University’s Sports Law Program. “If fans were allowed to sue for breach of contract every time they were disappointed with the performance or conduct of a player, there would be an unending string of lawsuits across the country.”
For Dragna though, it’s more about separating sports from politics.
“It’s my thought pattern that [players] should not be allowed [to protest],” he said. “If you sell tickets to a gaming event for entertainment, you should not be allowed to turn it political.”