It must be nice to be a politician.
Around here, the benefits typically include a six-figure salary. A big, beautiful pension. A taxpayer-funded car. And, if you're Gov. Wolf or a City Council member, you can also get access to something that millions of Eagles fans would have died for last weekend: face-value tickets to the Super Bowl.
Because of high demand, it's really, really, really hard to get a Super Bowl ticket at face value. In past years, ordinary fans could enter a lottery that gave them a shot at purchasing these tickets, but the NFL ditched that tradition in 2017. Even among Eagles season-ticket holders, it's difficult: The team conducted a lottery for season-ticket holders, but it is unclear how many of them were chosen.
That's how it works for us plebes, anyway. All Wolf had to do to get a face-value ticket was drop a line to the Eagles. "The Governor's Office reached out proactively to the Eagles to find out if tickets were available for purchase at face value," said spokesman J.J. Abbott. "Governor Wolf opted for tickets in the upper level."
Wolf purchased three tickets for $1,600 a pop on Jan. 25. At the time, Super Bowl tickets on the secondary market (read: where the normals buy them, on places like StubHub) were going for $6,899 on average, according to TicketIQ.
Philadelphia Council members didn't even have to ask the Eagles for access. Instead, on Jan. 24, several lawmakers received an email from the team, which gave them the opportunity to buy two face-value tickets for mid-level seats at $1,900 each (plus a $40 fee for credit card transactions). That day, the average ticket on the secondary market cost $6,777.
Four Council members said they took advantage of the deal: Mark Squilla, who went to the Super Bowl with his wife; Derek Green, who went with a friend; Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who provided the tickets to her sister and brother-in-law; and Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who passed the tickets along to her husband and nephew. All of the lawmakers said they or their family members paid out of pocket for the tickets.
Mayor Kenney also received an offer to buy face-value tickets — over the phone from an Eagles official, no less — but he said he declined.
Squilla doesn't think it's a problem. "The Eagles offered it as a good gesture. … We work hand-in-hand with [them] for events, like the parade," he said. "I don't see it as a conflict."
But David Thornburgh, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy, said, "It's troubling when public officials are sort of offered a special deal that not everybody gets."
Isn't it? After all, the Eagles have reason to cozy up to city elected officials. Philadelphia is required to make operation and maintenance payments to the team. And in 2015, Kenney criticized the Eagles' efforts to make more money on a lease that allows Temple University to use Lincoln Financial Field for football games.
Anne Gordon, a senior V.P. for the Eagles, said on Wednesday that she could not comment: "Our entire executive staff is working on parade planning and I have no ability to respond to your question within the time frame you have given me."
At least one Council member went to the Super Bowl without taking advantage of his special access to the Eagles: Councilman Allan Domb's son bought tickets for the two of them on the secondary market.
"Anytime tickets or benefits come to my office, my staff is instructed to say, 'Thank you, but no thank you,' " Domb said. "Whether it's the Auto Show or the Flower Show. It's just easier and cleaner."
Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat running to unseat Rep. Ryan Costello, talks up And1 a lot on the campaign trail.
Houlahan was a high-level exec at the sneaker and clothing business during the 1990s and 2000s. On her website, she said she helped "transform the company from a startup" to a "major" brand. On Twitter, she boasted: "As COO of And1 Basketball, I made sure our employees received great healthcare. We paid more than 90% of all healthcare for staff."
One thing you won't find in her campaign materials: In 1999, J.C. Penney pulled a line of And1 young men's shirts after a feminist organization complained they were "insulting" and "dehumanizing." They featured such slogans as "Your game is as ugly as your girl" and "You like that move? So does your girl."
In 1999 and 2000, the company landed in hot water again when it aired TV ads starring New York Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell and Indiana Hoosiers coach Bob Knight. While a player for the Golden State Warriors, Sprewell had been suspended for choking his coach during practice. Knight also choked someone during practice: player Neil Reed.
When we asked Houlahan about the controversy, she said: "As a senior executive at AND1 Basketball, I'm incredibly proud of the local company we built that employed hundreds of people here in southeastern Pennsylvania." She added that she "was involved in many of the company's major decisions, and any company that is active in popular culture is going to produce products that, decades later, might be seen differently — especially when they involve professional athletes and their fans."
"The small number of knuckleheads should stay home. Every city that's gone through this, that's had this celebration, there's always somebody, some element of people who do this. There were literally tens of thousands of people on the street, and the knucklehead contingent was extremely small." — Mayor Kenney, disinviting Sunday night's car-flippers and pole-climbers to the Super Bowl parade.