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Golden Knights make right call on couple’s coronavirus fears

Cheryl and Ernest Frey are Golden Knights fans who live in Arizona.

They attend a handful of games each season at T-Mobile Arena and own a closet full of gear to prove their devotion to all things Mark Stone and William Karlsson and so on.

Cheryl is 57 and suffers from diabetes.

Ernest is 53 and has heart disease.

Those are two of the leading conditions identified in people who have died globally from the coronavirus.

The couple represent, in this pandemic state, a fairly significant question: When it comes to sporting events and those who attend, how ethically responsible are teams and venues for the health of fans?

In this manner, the Golden Knights on Wednesday responded the right way.

‘It made me upset’

The Freys purchased two tickets for a total of $208 to a home game against Dallas on March 17.

But they now believe age and health issues would put them at a much higher risk of contracting the virus when attending an event that will draw in excess of 18,000.

Cheryl Frey called the team’s ticket office Monday, explained the situation and requested a refund.

At the time, she was told one would not be allowed.

“It made me really upset,” she said. “I even sent an email to the NHL. I mean, someone must care about these kinds of things, right?”

If her narrative led to the team changing its stance on some policies, good.

Smarter heads prevailed.

Knights president Kerry Bubolz said that single-game ticket holders will, until season’s end, be allowed to re-sell tickets via the authorized VGK exchange or transfer them through Flash Seats or the AXS app.

Cheryl Frey said she’s hoping to do the latter for a friend in Henderson.

It’s not the same as a team directly repaying fans like the Freys their $208, but it’s a whole better optic than not bending at all to previous single-game policies.

In a sports world dominated by analytics, I assume there is a metric somewhere that explains the risk-reward of not allowing for wiggle room in terms of refunds while enduring public relations heat over some level of compromise.

I understand, in most cases, why teams don’t allow refunds.

But the coronavirus and the level of fear it has generated isn’t most cases.

You couldn’t refresh Twitter on Wednesday without learning about another sporting event or convention or concert that had been cancelled or altered in some way for ticket holders.

The NCAA announced that all championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, will take place with only essential staff and limited family in attendance.

That’s right. We’re about to have a Final Four in Atlanta where a bouncing ball might be the loudest sound of all.

Late Wednesday, the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for the virus.

The NHL might be next to shut things down.

Ticket refunds in such situations will most always be awarded. If they won’t let you in, they’re probably not going to make you pay.

But not always does that occur in situations like the Frey couple and Golden Knights, given it hasn’t been decided to empty T-Mobile Arena for games.

Smart PR move

Maybe the metrics are clear. Maybe what is a city’s bizarre and maniacal passion for the Knights wouldn’t create any level of public relations blowback when folks learned of the situation.

Maybe nobody would believe it a big deal.

Think about it. Virus or no virus, what percent of those who attend games here would ever request a refund for any reason?

“It’s a lose-lose for (teams) and arenas and stadiums (nationally) right now,” said Las Vegas-based attorney Ashley Watkins, a partner at the firm Sam & Ash. “You’re going to have some people with tickets to events who also booked flights and hotels and are going to be irate about cancellations and they will sue.

“Then you’re going to have people who don’t want to go because of the health risk and whose tickets (aren’t refunded) and they will sue. It’s a total catch-22. I feel bad for these (teams) right now, but I would think the best thing is to just refund the tickets.

“It’s the best PR move.”

The Knights on Wednesday ultimately chose to make a smart, rationale one.

The why part doesn’t matter.

Good optics, these.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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