MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As thousands of fans packed the American Airlines Arena Sunday night for Game 3 of the NBA finals; Kelly Griffith and her fiancé Larry Lavender were stuck outside.
“I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio. I came all the way here to see Lebron James. I love Lebron James,” Griffith said.
These rare Lebron James fans from Ohio were just an hour away from tipoff when Larry attempted to upgrade his nosebleed seats for something better. He asked a Miami police officer for help to sell the tickets.
“He told me you can’t sell on ticket property and to go across the street and sell for ticket value or less. And I said ‘ok cool.’” Lavender said.
Across the street, in just minutes he found a buyer for his tickets: an undercover Miami Police officer.
“He said ‘what did I want for the tickets?’ And I said ‘whatever you want to give me,’ Lavender said. “And the next thing I know, he told me ‘come with me, he was an undercover cop.’”
Suddenly, Larry was facing arrest. He could surrender the tickets and walk, or go to jail.
“I chose ‘you can have those tickets,’” Larry told CBS4’s David Sutta.
Instead of arresting him, the officer wrote him a trespassing warning, banning him from ever setting foot inside the AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I just felt like I got robbed,” Lavender said.
When asked about it Miami Police disagreed saying, “No, they were not robbed at all.”
Sergeant Freddie Cruz confirmed Monday afternoon they did take Larry’s tickets. They took them not for scalping but because he didn’t have a vender’s license to sell them.
“If you are going to sell any merchandise,” Sgt. Cruz said. “Any product, whether it be tickets, water bottles, you have to a peddlers license.”
It may sound a bit ridiculous, but in 2009 Miami established a special vending district around the AmericanAirlines Arena. You can’t sell a dollar candy bar or a five hundred dollar ticket without a special city license.
“It’s not widely known, however it’s common sense if you are going to sell something you need a license just like a business runs with a occupational license,” Cruz explained.
The couple was turned off by the whole series of events.
“Miami has definitely left a bad taste in our mouths for this weekend; Father’s Day experience at that,” Lavender said.
Larry filed a complaint at police headquarters, but Miami Police said he was lucky. It turns out he later bought a second pair of tickets from a scalper and unknowingly violated his trespassing order. Still, he blames the cop for telling them they could sell the tickets in the first place.
“If this is how you do people who come and travel this far, 15 hours on the road to come and support your city and bring money to your city; and this is how you are going to be treated. This ain’t right. Something ain’t right. We need to fix this. Really,” Griffith said.
Police confirmed their vending detail netted 11 people for selling merchandise and tickets outside of Game 3 of the NBA Finals.