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NFL Stadium Security Facing Tests on Multiple Levels – Will it Affect Event Owners?

28 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

Intense National Football League rivalries — coupled with stadium fights and a lawsuit filed by an assaulted Dallas Cowboy fan — have placed increased attention on game-day security at stadiums. And while it’s high-profile sports that have been getting attention, there are take-aways for event owners at the amateur and youth levels.

Prior to the Nov. 1 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium officials boosted the number of undercover law-enforcement officers (wearing jerseys of both teams), as well as added temporary holding cells and 800 more security cameras.

“The history of games between these two teams is known to us,” Santa Clara Police Capt. Wahid Kazem told local media before the game (which the 49ers won), acknowledging previous violent clashes among fans. “This will be quite different than any other football game we’ve hosted this year. We understand that to make the event more secure, we’re going to have to increase our personnel, both in uniform and not in uniform.”

Kazem would not reveal the total number of personnel working the game. As things turned out, a total of 32 arrests were made during the nationally televised game, including three people accused of assault. “When you have the history of this rivalry, and that number of people in a venue, it’s a great example of our planning and preparation to make this a safe event,” Kazem told the East Bay Times. “We did have a couple of bad actors. But there was a lot of law enforcement out there. It was a great collaboration between a lot of different entities.”

Tensions have been high at Levi’s Stadium after 34-year-old David Aguilera Gonzales was charged with assault by means of force causing great bodily injury after allegedly punching a man multiple times during a confrontation after the 49ers game against the Arizona Cardinals. The victim suffered a brain injury and later fell into a coma.

Meanwhile, a Dallas Cowboys fan who was allegedly severely beaten inside AT&T Stadium two years ago has sued the team. According to the lawsuit, which asks for a minimum of $300,000 and a maximum of $1 million, Michael Kennedy and his wife, M’Kale, claim the beating during an October 2016 game was a result of negligence on behalf of the Cowboys organization.

As WFAA-TV in Dallas reports:

The lawsuit alleges that the Kennedys decided to move from their seats during the Oct. 30 game against the Philadelphia Eagles because “unruly and belligerent” fans behind them were kicking their seats and spilling beer. 

When Michael Kennedy told the aisle attendant about their behavior and the attendant went to address the situation, the fans “pushed her aside” and proceeded to attack Kennedy, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit describes a “relentless beating” that caused a bloody scene in the stairway of the stadium seats. Kennedy was allegedly punched, kicked and stomped on.

Stadium security allegedly told Kennedy that they tried to call for help, but that their radios weren’t working, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by the Dallas-based lawyer Matthew McKay, alleges that AT&T Stadium wasn’t adequately monitored and that security workers were [not] properly trained to handle the purportedly violent situation.

The Cowboys organization and Jerry Jones’ JWJ Corporation, which owns the Cowboys partnership, “failed to take reasonable safety measures” that could’ve prevented the attack, including functioning radios, and failed to protect its fans, the lawsuit reads.

The Cowboys declined WFAA’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

In addition to emotional damages, Michael Kennedy claims to have been “disabled from employment” since the incident, which occurred exactly two years before the filing of the lawsuit. The couple also claims the incident took a toll on their marriage.

At TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., during an October game between the Houston Texans and the Jaguars, a Texans fan “appeared to be knocked unconscious from a punch thrown by a Jaguars fan” and “an awful confrontation involving multiple fans [ensued], with the fans in Jaguars gear brawling with the outnumbered fans in Texans gear.”

“We in no way condone the behavior,” the Jaguars said in a statement. “Per our Fan Code of Conduct, two individuals involved in the altercation were ejected from the stadium. Each party, whether a Jaguars season ticket member or a single game purchaser, has had their ticket purchasing privileges rescinded.”

As NBC Sports noted, “this is the second high-profile incident involving fan behavior in Jacksonville in less than a year. During a December [2017] game against the Seahawks, multiple Jaguars fans threw items at Seahawks players, resulting in a potential crowd control nightmare as Seattle’s Quinton Jefferson tried to go into the stands to confront a fan who threw something at him.”

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