NEW YORK, N.Y. - New York City is co-hosting the Super Bowl this weekend but its mayor will not attend the nation's biggest sporting event.
Bill de Blasio will not travel across the Hudson River to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to watch the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in a game that will showcase the nation's largest city to a television audience expected to top 100 million people.
De Blasio said he would stay home to watch with his teenage son, but the decision not to buy tickets to the high-priced event and to publicly say so is in line with the image he crafted during his campaign: that he was a middle-class family man focused on fixing the city's widening income inequality.
"I'm very excited that the NFL is hosting the Super Bowl in our area, and we're working hard to be great hosts of the event," de Blasio said in a statement Thursday. "I've enjoyed participating in all the festivities leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, but I've decided to watch the game on TV, just like the vast majority of New Yorkers."
Elected officials are prohibited from accepting free tickets to the game and the requirement to pay — with face values ranging from $500 to $2,500 — can be difficult for those without deep pockets.
De Blasio is paid $225,000 a year and made $165,000 a year the last four years as the city's elected public advocate.
De Blasio, who hails from a middle- to upper-middle class Brooklyn neighbourhood, has joked about his lack of disposable income. He has one child in college and another who will be going in two years. Despite being an avid sports fan who lives near the new Barclays Center, he has yet to attend a Brooklyn Nets game due to high ticket prices.
By contrast, his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was one of the richest men in New York, worth approximately $31 billion. Not much of a sports fan, he would often attend games, always sitting just a few rows from the action. He once accidentally tripped and injured an opposing player while sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden for a Knicks game.
Tickets to the Super Bowl are among the priciest in sports. The NFL set the prices at $800, $1,000, $1,200 and $2,500, while another 1,000 tickets were available for $500 each through a lottery.
In most cases, New York City officials can't accept free tickets to the game, according to guidelines spelled out by the city's Conflict of Interest Board. Elected officials can only receive gifts of up to $50, an amount that would barely cover a handful of souvenirs.
The only exceptions, according to the board's rules, would be if a ticket was given as a gift from a family member or if a politician could make the claim that he or she was attending the game in an official capacity to perform official duties.
State laws are similar. Former New York Gov. David Paterson paid a $60,000 fine after improperly accepting free New York Yankees World Series tickets in 2009.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office has use of a luxury box at the stadium, which was privately built by the Jets and Giants but sits on state land managed by a public agency known as the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. All of the luxury boxes, including Christie's, are relinquished to the NFL for the game but the league has allowed the exposition authority to retain its own box.
That box was then turned over to the governor's office, according to a spokesman for the agency. Christie has largely avoided the press in the wake of the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal but has appeared at a few Super Bowl-related events this week. His spokesman would not discuss the governor's plans for Sunday.
The other governor playing co-host to the game, New York's Andrew Cuomo, has yet to decide if he will attend, according to his spokesman.
MetLife Stadium is in East Rutherford, N.J. and that town's mayor, James Cassella, was miffed he did not get a ticket. He was later invited to the suite given to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.