MLS Security in Spotlight Following Fan-Player Altercation
3 May, 2017By: Michael Popke
Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the United States National Team and the Colorado Rapids, is calling for Major League Soccer to review policies regarding fan and player interaction at stadiums.
He apologized for his behavior during an exchange of expletives with Sporting Kansas City fans behind the goal and after the game on April 9, for which he received a three-game suspension. But the 38-year-old veteran went on to criticize security at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, where the incident happened and was captured by a security camera.
“I am at fault and certainly not a victim in this incident,” Howard wrote in a Facebook post. “With that being said, I feel compelled to elaborate a bit more. … I am surprised and concerned that the full context of the incident wasn’t considered and responsibility wasn’t shared. We all want passionate fans but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. It is not OK for an apparently drunk fan to get inches away from an athlete’s face and yell obscenities at them. While I should have controlled my reaction, I want to make it clear that I have never been put into a situation like that until Kansas City. I’m not a security expert, so don’t know the details of how a fan could get so close, but it was not the norm and not right.”
Howard stopped short of calling for censorship of fans or policing against passion, but demanded that security personnel in MLS stadiums “keep fans at enough of a distance that a physical confrontation is impossible.”
He concluded by urging “MLS, Sporting Kansas City, the Colorado Rapids and sports institutions in general to review fan-athlete interactions — both what is permitted and how that is supervised.”
The Rapids issued a statement explaining that the team does not condone Howard’s behavior during the game and called it out of character for the player, but the MLS Players Union expressed disappointment in how the league and Children’s Mercy Park officials handled the situation.
“The security provided by the league and Sporting Kansas City was wholly inadequate to protect players and fans,” the union said in a statement. “As Tim was attempting to leave the field, a fan with alcohol in hand was able to come within two feet of him on field level and aggressively scream obscenities in his face. That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something that players, or anyone, should be subjected to in their workplace.”
Something tells us this story is far from over.