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Sports Law

The Tulane Law School Sports Law program provides students with the background necessary to understand and handle problems unique to the sports industry.

Written by: Emma Stendig
With Research Assistance by: Eric Ferrante

Brian Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan beaten at Dodgers Stadium early this baseball season, was finally released from the hospital and into rehab this month.  But the debate about stadium safety, especially in professional baseball and football, continues to make headlines.  Leagues and stadium operators face a myriad of issues; including pat downs, tailgating, intense regional rivalries and unsafe conditions.  In an era when live-game-attendance is in serious competition with television broadcasts, leagues and teams must make a concerted effort to ensure the safety of their stadiums if they are to stand a chance in attracting spectators to their events.  Yet, it remains to be seen how leagues and stadium operators are going to deal with these ongoing problems.  One thing is clear though, no matter what they decide to do, they have to address the role that alcohol plays in the majority of the incidents that have rocked the sports world.
Long before Brian Stow, the NFL instituted mandatory pat downs at all games.  Shortly after 9/11 the league recognized football games and stadiums as "soft targets" for terrorists, highly visible events followed by millions that also uniquely embody American values and celebrations.  As the only league with mandated pat downs, the NFL looks to shield itself, host teams, and stadium operators from massive tort liability in the event of an attack.  While most fans are accepting and understanding of the pat downs, constantly reminded by signs and stadium personnel, there is a minority who strongly oppose the pat downs.1
An ACLU representative has described the pat down as "essentially being groped by a stranger." Others cite the 4th amendment which requires physical searches by government personnel to be reasonable.  Critics of those who oppose the pat downs say the criticisms are unfair and fans consent to them by entering the stadium and attending the game.  Nevertheless, the California Supreme Court decided a case in March of 2009 holding that ticket holders adequately alleged a legally protected interest and a reasonable expectation of privacy not to be subjected to pat downs when attending a football game.  Still, violence at football games persists despite the pat downs.  A little over a month ago, on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 a fan attacked another fan with a taser during the Jets home opener against the Cowboys at New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey.2   The man was charged with aggravated assault and weapons possession charges; he was later released on $22,500 bail.  Despite increased security for the anniversary, no one could explain how the taser made it past security during the pat down and into the stadium.

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