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Thursday, October 19, 2006
FBI: Terrorism Threat Against NFL is a Hoax

The FBI announced this evening that the purported terrorist threat against NFL stadiums is a hoax (Todd Zeranski and Robert Schmidt, "NFL Football Stadium Terrorism Bomb Threat Is a Hoax, FBI Says," Bloomberg News, 10/19/2006). Earlier in the week, the Department of Homeland Security had warned of a threat against NFL stadiums involving an al-Qaeda operative smuggling radioactive materials into the U.S. from Mexico. While the story seemed a little bit "24ish" it obviously presented a serious concern.

In my recent article in the Willamette Law Review entitled "Social Psychology, Calamities, and Sports Law," I examine the law and social psychology of terrorist threats against the NFL. For instance, I study the effects of major sports events like NFL games being “soft targets” or those particularly vulnerable and difficult to secure. Indeed, NFL games tend to feature large numbers of persons constantly entering and exiting a confined facility, as well as significant and often congested movement of persons within that facility. Less obviously, patrons at NFL games, like in other pro sports ettings, tend to be highly-focused on the game rather than on their surroundings, and are thus less likely to detect wrongdoing and nefariousness than in other settings, such as in airports or subways.

Making matters worse, stadium security personnel are disadvantaged by the situational pressure of impatient fans seeking to enter the stadium, as well as by the practical necessity of preventing long and slow-moving entrance lines. Stadium security personnel also seldom possess sufficient anti-terrorist training, and are thus especially vulnerable to the “situation” of large numbers of fans anxiously waiting to enter the stadium (which may present a secondary target: all of the people waiting outside the stadium). Put more bluntly, NFL games, like those in the other pro leagues, often entail tens of thousands of distracted persons moving in and around difficult-to-secure areas that are protected by questionably-trained personnel.

I also explore the financial considerations of a terrorist strike on an NFL game. Aside from inflicting untold human suffering (both from the attack itself and the "after-effects" of an attack, such as people being trampled while fleeing the stadium and the lack of available hospital beds), an attack could impose massive tort liability on the NFL, the hosting NFL team, and stadium operators for inadequate security. And perhaps not surprisingly, the cost of property and liability insurance for all professional sports teams and related actors has skyrocketed in recent years.

As Geoff (8/4/2006) and Greg (10/26/2005) have discussed, and as I also detail in my article, the NFL has attempted to employ a pat-down policy, which has drawn the ire of state and federal courts in Florida, both for its invasiveness and its apparent lack of efficacy. It will be interesting to see how leagues and teams develop stadium security policies that stop both domestic crimes and terrorist acts, while preserving patrons' constitutional and historical protections.


Interesting perspective from almost 10 years ago. I find it troublesome that NOBODY will address the issue of obsolete stadium emergency evac protocol.

There are 50,000 - 100,000 individual cell phones in every stadium capable of receiving and transmitting false information. Learn why the NFL and the government are unwilling to address this issue.

Blogger sonofsaf -- 8/24/2014 1:36 PM  

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