The New Orleans team officials says everybody does it.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Hornets, playing before the smallest crowds in the NBA, were able to inflate attendance figures by reselling tickets originally bought at huge discounts for the owner's charity account.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that hundreds of tickets were charged to owner George Shinn's charity account on March 9 for $5 apiece, and those same tickets were resold at full price -- up to $41 -- for the sold-out April 2 home game against Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat.
The Hornets' books did not reflect that those tickets were resold.
Boosts paid attendance numbers
Rather, the transactions were recorded as purchases of previously unsold tickets for different seats and for other games, thereby boosting paid attendance numbers for games at which many seats were empty.
Hornets officials said reselling already purchased tickets for high-demand games, then reflecting those purchases as something else to balance the books, is common practice in the NBA.
"If we have fans who want to buy tickets to a game, we want to take care of them," Tim McDougall, the Hornets chief marketing officer, said Friday. "That was our interest during the Heat game and we're always going to do that. The people who support us, that's the reason we're in business. So if that means we move the tickets from a charity account, then we're going to do that."
Sam Russo, the Hornets' executive vice president of business, said teams do similar bookkeeping when season ticket holders turn in tickets they cannot use in exchange for tickets of equal value for a different game.
In some cases, the practice may boost the announced attendance for other games, Russo said, "But everything adds up and everything gets reconciled."
It was unclear whether the Hornets' resales violated any NBA policies. The league issued a brief statement when questioned about the specifics of the Hornets tickets that were resold for the Miami game.
League won't comment publicly
"We do not publicly comment about the business affairs of one of our owners," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
In one particular transaction, a customer bought eight $41 tickets for the Miami game at full price ($328), but the customer's account did not reflect that sale. Instead, it showed a purchase of 20 tickets in different sections for the Denver game on April 6. The per-ticket price was listed as $16.40, for a matching total of $328.
The result was that the eight resold charity tickets for the Miami game were officially reflected as 20 additional tickets sold for the Denver game. Russo said that may have happened and if so, that 20 tickets likely were printed up and given to charity for the Denver game.
"You do something like that to try to get the dollars to match," Russo said.
"In essence, it improves the revenue and attendance for other games, and our business is to improve attendance and to generate revenue."