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Raiders Fan Kathy Samoun Discusses Spectator Safety

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Kathy SamounKathy Samoun

She counts among her friends The Violator, Doctor Death, Gorilla Rilla and other costumed occupants of the so-called "Black Hole" seating sections at Oakland Coliseum. Kathy Samoun is, first and foremost, a Raiders fan. But something happened during the 2011 NFL preseason that pushed Samoun, a Bay Area website designer, toward advocacy of another kind: spectator safety. When the Raiders traveled to San Francisco for the Battle of the Bay exhibition game, a man was beaten unconscious in an upper-level men's room of Candlestick Park, and his friend was shot four times trying to rescue him (both have filed suit, naming multiple defendants). That game, which featured another shooting and a second beating, was "the last straw" for Samoun, who launched Fans Against Violence. In one year, the nonprofit has grown from a website to a presence at every Raiders home game, where Samoun interacts with fans and passes out red awareness ribbons that read "FAV Taking Back the Stands." She has even helped raise thousands of dollars to support victims of fan violence. One Samoun brainchild - FanShake Cam™, which encourages opposing fans seated next to each other to high five, dance or "just interact in a good way" - is featured once per half on the Coliseum's video boards. Like a growing number of NFL teams, Paul Steinbach consulted the mother of two on the issue of fan insecurity and how best to tackle it.

Q: Where did the idea for FanShake Cam come from?
A: After the Jets game last year, we were walking out of the stadium in a big mob. Fans were chanting "Raiders!" like they do after every win. There was a couple who were Jets fans walking out with us, and you could tell by their body language - eyes down - that they felt uncomfortable. So I said to the couple, "That was a really good game," and the girl turned around to me and said, "Thanks." I said, "If it's any consolation, you have a really good-looking quarterback." Everybody in the crowd started laughing, and you could see right away their body language changed. It was like we were all just fans of the game, having fun. That changed the mood of the crowd instantly, and so that kind of gave me the idea. People really need to treat the stadium like it's their home and be respectful of visitors as their guests. A lot of times it's the smallest of gestures that makes the biggest impact.

Q: The NFL now mandates that misbehaving fans take an online course before returning to games. How would you rate the league's efforts on the fan violence front?
A: I think that any effort the NFL or the teams, or any of the leagues or teams in general, make toward trying to end fan violence is good. As far as it being effective, it remains to be seen. I don't know if it's going to be a deterrent or not. Requiring all NFL teams to have metal detectors, I think, was great.

Q: What do you make of the recently passed California law requiring all professional sports venues in your state to post security text-messaging codes starting Jan. 1?
A: It's really the number-one tool we have as fans in ensuring our own safety. So if something happens, you can anonymously text what section you're in, what's going on, and security will come to where you are. Most of the stadiums had them before, but now all of them will have to have them. Again, it's a baby step, but all these little steps add up to a safer game day.

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