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Monday, September 11, 2006
Sports and Stadium Security, Five Years Later

Chris Dade of the Beaumont Enterprise has a great feature story on legal issues surrounding stadium security and how views about those issues, and sports in general, have changed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks ("When Games Really Mattered," 9/10/2006). Dade interviews several people for this story, including me. Here are some excerpts:

As in other times of national distress, sports helped the nation cope in the weeks and months that followed Sept. 11. "It certainly was that way immediately after 9/11," said Peter Roby, the director for Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society in Boston. "Sports played an important role in people feeling comfortable with their lives." . . .

The U.S. may be divided on the war in Iraq and Bush's handling of terrorism, but it's united on another front, in America's stadiums and arenas. "It's a place for people to lose themselves," Roby said.

Keeping thousands of spectators safe, however, is a matter that has received more consideration in the years since the attacks, said Michael McCann, a law professor at Mississippi College School of Law . . .

McCann said another dynamic of security at sporting events comes from the attentiveness of spectators. He contrasted airline passengers on the lookout for anything suspicious with sports fans who are mainly focused on the game. "They're not thinking about security or what's around them," McCann said. "When you go to a game, you go to watch the game." . . .

Lines that form outside stadiums as spectators go through security ironically "could become a target," McCann said. "You never know."

Lynn Jamieson, a professor in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration at Indiana University, said the level of security at sporting venues generally varies within each league. She said the experience patrons have with security at a stadium or arena can be similar to an airport.
"As with anything else, you can have an OK experience with security at one airport and a horrendous experience at another," she said. "There is never not going to be an issue."

If you're interested, I address stadium security, including the legality of pat-downs, in my forthcoming article in the Willamette Law Review entitled "Social Psychology, Calamities, and Sports Law".

Do you think increased efforts at stadium security have been working or has the absence of terrorist strikes at our sporting events simply reflected a lack of a credible threat?


Regardless of whether the terrorists would actually want to plan an attack against a stadium, I feel safer knowing that there are people there protecting me in case they are.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 9/11/2006 6:31 PM  

I'm just wondering if one needs a college degree to serve as a screener at the stadium. Or, better yet, do they have to be at least one year out of high school and at least 19?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 9/11/2006 6:41 PM  

Thanks for these comments.

Anonymous 1: Your point is one shared by many. In the article that I am publishing in the Willamette Law Review, I discuss how a security presence enhances the game experience for many patrons.

Anonymous 2: Thanks, I love the irony of your point! I'm not sure, but I believe that while an 18-year-old is considered too young to carry a football and cash a paycheck at the same time, he is considered old enough to protect the lives of tens of thousands of people from terrorists. Gotta love the bizarre implications of age eligibility rules in sports.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 9/11/2006 8:18 PM  

It was a surprise to see the subject of stadium security come up in connection with American Sports. It is perhaps the one are in sports law where Europeans have more experience. It is not something we should be proud of, because it stems from the violent behaviour of organized groups of fans, especially in soccer games - Hooliganism. I guess that's something America is imune to. But we also pay attention to terrorism. In the recent Euro' 2004 held in Portugal, everyone Portuguese including myself expected a terrorist attack somewhere along the way (because Portugal supported the US in the Iraq ware) and security was, in that respect, top level. And seeing all the planning going into it certainly made us feel more secure.

Anonymous Luis Cassiano -- 9/12/2006 5:33 AM  

I was just thinking about the riots in Chicago (?) some years ago after a major sport achievement (baseball?) and all the social unrest it caused. Is it a cause of concern for the american spectator, crowd behaviour?

Anonymous Luis Cassiano -- 9/12/2006 5:36 AM  


Thanks for your comments. Although hooliganism hasn't significantly afflicted the U.S., we have, as you note, suffered riots relating to sports events. I think a lot of that stems from the group dynamic, and how we often act in accordance with group expectations, even when we think that we are acting as rational individuals. There's some very interesting literature in social psychology about the power of groups, including how they direct individuals in ways that are almost entirely unappreciated by those individuals. It's kind of scary, actually.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 9/12/2006 11:28 AM  

What I find so frightening about stadium security is its general lack of reason. Yes, they may take away my lighter at the front gates, but I can still get my knife through, because it is attached to my key chain. I think that the TV spots, about how simple it is to make roadside bombs and other explosives, has made it clear that sports venues are for the most part defenseless. People largely unprotected and inebriated in the parking lots, long lines and other factors, go in to making me feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. Having said that, you cannot stop attending these events just because you feel like a duck at a shooting gallery. I live in a city where people get robbed everyday, however, this fact does not make me stop walking down the street. Do you think it is the stadium owners or the NFL for instance, that should be responsible for protecting the people at the games?

Anonymous Seth Pearlman -- 9/12/2006 2:31 PM  


Thanks for your comment. I believe both the league and stadium operators (and also perhaps the hosting team) could face tort liability in the event a security mishap, so it would seem that they share a collective interest in seeing the stadium secure. Whether they are accomplishing that goal is clearly up for debate, and as you note, fans who attend games know that security is limited in what it can do, particularly given the practical need of getting people into the stadium and not having humongous lines outside of the stadium.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 9/12/2006 9:41 PM  

We have to be careful because every stadium is a possible target for terrorists and that is why we must improve the security stadiums. Although sport is one of the most popular ambassadors from the world and theoretically, we do not have to worry about our safety, we must be able to prevent and stop the possible terrorist attack even before they start.

Anonymous baby -- 9/19/2006 2:31 PM  

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