Where the Regulation of Violence in Sports Will Inevitably Extend: The Stands & Outside the Stadium/Arena

The University of Kentucky fans "celebrate" the Wildcats' Final Four win over Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

The professional and college sports industries have without question reached milestones with respect to revenue generation over the past decade.  Both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association experienced pre-season lockouts and subsequent consuming negotiation sessions with their respective players’ unions concerning profit sharing.  In 2010, the NCAA signed a monumental $10.8 billion contract with CBS Corporation and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting for the media rights to its beloved Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament, known by most as March Madness.

It goes without saying that fans are the impetus behind such revenue growth.  Whether a country and its citizens are facing a recession—even bankruptcy—or marvelous economic times, avid followers and fans of professional and college sports teams will pay hard-earned money for the pleasure drawn from watching talented athletes perform for up to three hours on the field, court or ice.  Fans will do so by attending such events, watching them at bars/restaurants, or through the purchase of oversized, flat-screen televisions for home.  David Levy, the President of Turner Sports, acknowledged in signing the March Madness media contract with the NCAA that “the tournament’s popularity and success [had outgrown] the ability for one network to provide all the coverage fans are looking for.”  Similarly, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus recognized, “the opportunity for viewers to watch whatever game they want to on up to four different networks has to result in more eyeballs, more gross rating points and more exposure for the tournament, thereby creating much more value for the advertisers.”

I think it’s awesome that fans of professional and college sports teams continue to use this source of entertainment as an escape from the struggles facing the lives of individuals on a daily basis in many countries around the globe, including financial turmoil, disease, death and general unhappiness.  However, over the same decade that the sports industry has experienced rapid revenue growth and increased popularity, the fan experience at and following sporting events has become more violent, tragic and unpleasant.  A problem clearly exists that neither the professional leagues, the NCAA Directors nor the athletes have sufficiently addressed, or are even equipped to address.

Indeed, the European professional soccer leagues have essentially condoned fan violence since their creation.  The Philadelphia Eagles’ late Veterans Stadium maintained holding cells to accommodate unruly fans.  These facts represent proof that the sports industry has accepted violence as part of the overall fan experience for quite some time.  For instance, in 2004, Lakers forward Ron Artest—or as legal documents now refer to him, Metta World Peace—climbed into the stands as an Indiana Pacer at The Palace of Auburn hills to exchange punches with a few rambunctious fans. In 2010, I attended a New York Jets game in New York as an Atlanta Falcons fan and was threatened by four Jets fans following the Falcons’ last minute defeat of the Jets.  Fortunately, violence never ensued, though not as a result of action taken by stadium security.  In 2011, a San Francisco Giants fan experienced the wrath of Dodger Stadium when several Dodger fans beat him almost to the point of death.  And just a few weeks ago, University of Kentucky basketball fans nearly burned down and destroyed Lexington, KY, following the Wildcats’ Final Four win over state rival Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

However, what has either been condoned or overlooked by these leagues and the NCAA will inevitably draw a divide between fans, compelling those who are visiting the home stadium or establishment (e.g., sports bar) of an opposing team to discontinue their participation.  This decreased fan participation and interest will inevitably compel revenue to decline for the professional sports leagues, the NCAA, media outlets and corporate partners and sponsors.  Should violence and unpleasant behavior by fans persist at or following sporting events, how could it not have a domino impact on the sports industry?

So, where should we as fans and professionals in the industry place blame and seek assistance in preventing this evolving problem?  First and foremost, responsibility should be placed on the individuals who are involved in such inappropriate behavior.  Fans have progressively turned their allegiance to sports teams into something personal.  However, sustaining a loss through a favorite team is not analogous to losing a love one.  Fans must realize that their personal lives will continue unscathed, so long as they categorize sporting events as entertainment and nothing more.  This point allows me to transition to my second and final position.  The professional sports leagues, the NCAA, the athletes, the media outlets and the corporate partners and sponsors must take on the responsibility of reminding fans of this fact.  Indeed, most professional sporting venues stop serving alcohol at a certain point during team play.  College venues refuse to serve alcohol altogether.  Great, by taking alcohol out of the picture, these entities and individuals have indirectly implied to the fans that they should behave responsibly.  However, I’m asking—maybe even pleading to—these same entities and individuals to make a direct and blatant statement to the fans: “Stop the violence and inappropriate behavior!”  The NFL has already done so much to prevent violence on the field in an effort to protect its brand and revenue stream.  Take the next step and prevent it from occurring in the stands and outside the stadium.

Hey guys, it’s your money, not mine, that’s being placed on the line.

About nicholasrhector

I am an attorney and sports fanatic whose interests consist of sports law, sports media, and the the relationship between public relations/image cultivation and the professional athlete.

Posted on April 15, 2012, in MLB, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, Sports, Uncategorized, Violence in Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Great post Nick. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are two kinds of fans: genuine sports fans, who rarely engage in this type of behavior, and “fans” who simply like to get drunk and yell at something. They use their allegiance to a team as an excuse to instigate violence. Being a Boston fan living in New York, I have experienced my fair share of hostility at sporting events. My favorite comeback when someone is harrassing me is to ask them if they chose where they grew up. This usually shuts people up, but sometimes people continue to harass. I agree that stadium security doesn’t do enough to prevent this type of behavior, but I think the problem may be less about sports and more of a commentary on our society as whole.

  2. Thanks, bud. I couldn’t agree with you more. The blame should certainly be placed on fans who already arrive with bad intentions. Certainly, there’s no clear solution to preventing these fans from behaving in such a fashion. I hate to see the leagues, NCAA, etc. overlook the issue, yet focus so much attention on the violence occurring on the field.

  3. Rachel C. Thomas

    Wonderful job on the post!! I agree with Charles about two types of fans. I have never experienced an ultercation at a professional sports game. Although, Columbus,Ohio has taken the loss of a football game with abdominal actions afterwards on the public streets. Behaviors such as fighting, flipping cars over, etc. have occurred after the loss against Michigan years ago. Wether it is a player or average civilians in the stands it is obscene. My opinion is its fallacious when a professional player has exhibited the behaviors, due to the fact he is a roll model for younger children & represents the team. I don’t understand why these particular players get a “slap on the hand” for displaying irrational behaviors. Clearly there should be no type of negative interactions or physical altercations with a fan whom screams profanity remarks while they are playing. It’s utterly rediculous. Furthermore, it may not teach the player a lesson. Example Dennis Rodman. How many times did that guy act a nut? What were the consequences? He repeatedly had negative actions and Aparently being fined did not phase him one bit.
    There have been an abundant amount of altercations with fans in the stands. I don’t think alcohol may be the only factor, it’s the person attitude. Plenty of fans drink without getting in fights, yet a lot drink and act crazy. Maybe a resolution is when the altercations occur in the stands security should remove them from the stands, get a copy of photo id and document the incident. Security should have a database which is shared throughout the professional league & if behavior continues then don’t allow the person at any type of events. Maybe banning people for a season or whatever will let others know the behavior will not be tolerated. The Dogers game is one situation that ended horrifically for a fan by a crazy guy. How many times will It take for someone to get hurt by a crazy mean drunk or a mean person for cheering for the team they like? It’s unacceptable and we the people should not tolerate this. We have love for the game and what is it teaching the children?

  4. Great Article on Fan Violence! Living in the California Bay Area as you know we have our fair share of violence. As a result we started an organization, Fans Against Violence. We are trying to do what we can to encourage sportsmanship and fan awareness. Although Venues, Teams and the security MUST take a responsibility in keeping fans safe, fans also have to share in that responsibility.

    Also currently a bill they are trying to pass here where they would create a ban list. I’m not sure if you have heard about it. It is similar to what Rachel is suggesting. Anyone who is convicted of a violent act at a professional sporting event would be banned from all professional sports venues. Unfortunately the bill did not pass last week and they are working to amend it and push it through this coming week. I do agree that alcohol is a huge factor, people arrive, tailgate and drink from 7:00am to game time..then go in the stadiums and drink some more. Unfortunately, the reality of it is most of the leagues would not be willing to give up the enormous amount of money they make on selling alcohol and the sponsors.

    Again Thanks so much for writing this article. I would love to repost it on our site? please let me know if that is a possibility. You can check out our site and let me know. It is http://www.fansagainstviolence.org

  5. Thank you! You have created a great organization. I just briefly perused your website and really like the content. I agree with you in all respects and was unaware of the recent legislation being considered in California. Though it was not passed, at least enough powerful individuals are aware of the issue and have created a discussion. Though a perfect solution may not exist just yet, critical discussion will inevitably lead to one. I would love for you to repost this article on your site. Thank you, and I will definitely provide my support in any way I can.

  6. Thank you so much! I I will send you a link to the page when I repost it! and of course link back:) As to the Legislation, they are working to amend it and hopefully submit it again this coming Tuesday. Even if this legislation would serve as no more than a deterent, it would be worth passing! Every little bit counts:)

    I would love it if you could email me your contact information so I could add you to my contacts and will definitely be in touch soon! my email address is info@fansagainstviolence.org

    Thanks again! We really appreciate your support!

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