Is it safe to attend an NFL game?

Entertainment, News, Safety

The old joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” might have to be changed to “I went to a fight and an NFL game broke out.” Except now, it’s the fans who are throwing the punches.

Sportswriter Bill Simmons once stated that going to an NFL game is like being in an episode of Cops, which is both hilarious and sad. Because while the picture in your head might make you chuckle, he’s not too far off.

Too much testosterone and beer?

The combination of 40-year-old “adolescents” and fans who celebrate too much before kick-off—not to mention inside the stadium—has slowly dialed up the crazy, and the NFL has known about it for some time now. Two seasons ago, KIRO-TV in Seattle ran an investigative piece claiming the NFL is aware they have a huge safety problem with fan violence at their games.

KIRO said the NFL wouldn’t share its data on fan violence, so the TV reporters did their own investigating and found over 10,000 incidents of fan violence over a two-year period. The worst part, claims KIRO, is that teams don’t always notify police when these felonies are occurring.

And the hits just keep on coming

Anyone who’s witnessed fan fights in an NFL stadium or on YouTube knows this problem isn’t getting better. Security is tough when there are 70,000 emotional people yelling and screaming. There aren’t enough policemen at the games, and ushers can’t do much against crazed fans locked in a frenzy of fandom—and often, rage.

Disturbing video surfaced earlier this year of a Minnesota Vikings fan being brutally assaulted by three San Francisco 49ers fans in the parking lot of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara after a Monday night game. The man was repeatedly kicked and punched while he was down; he managed to narrowly escape with the help of a security guard. Those responsible for the beating were arrested days later and charged with felony assault.

Since the 49ers moved into Levi’s Stadium last year, police have logged 24 arrests for assault, including one last year that left two people with brain damage after a fight in a restroom.

There are problems elsewhere as well: in Texas, after a fight broke out in the parking lot following a Cowboys loss, a man held a gun to the head of another fan as a mob urged him to shoot. He ended up shooting and critically wounding a different fan minutes later, before tripping over a retaining wall and being nabbed by police.

Groping for solutions

The concern for public safety has gotten the attention of city leaders. The assault on the Minnesota Vikings fan has Santa Clara officials calling for a review of the alcohol policy at the stadium. This could mean ending beer sales at halftime or finding ways to curb the early partying so many NFL fans have grown accustomed to.

The popularity of the NFL continues to skyrocket, with a net worth now north of $60 billion. But if steps aren’t taken soon to keep the games safe, the kingdom could start to crumble.

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