Pro Football Stadiums Aim to Stem Fan Violence

Andy Berg Headshot

The $1 million lawsuit filed this week by a Cowboys fan who was severely beaten at a game two years ago is yet another reason professional football stadium operators are trying their best to get fan violence under control. 

According to the Dallas ABC affiliate, Michael Kennedy and his wife M’Kale are suing the Cowboys organization for negligence. Kennedy alleges that he and his wife decided to leave their seats during an Oct. 30, 2016, game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of unruly and belligerent fans who were kicking their seats and spilling beer on them.

After alerting the aisle attendant of the fans' behavior, Kennedy says he was attacked. The lawsuit describes a bloody beating wherein Kennedy was kicked, punched and stomped on.

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Stadium security allegedly told Kennedy that they tried to call for help but their radios weren’t working. The lawsuit alleges that the Cowboy's organzation “failed to take reasonable safety measures” that could’ve prevented the attack, including functioning radios, and failed to protect its fans."

It’s the kind of incident that can be exacerbated by rival matchups like the one Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is set to host this weekend between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. Violent clashes between fans erupted in the parking lot of Oakland-Alameda Coliseum the last time the two teams faced off in December 2014. Prior to that, two men were shot in the parking lot of Candlestick Park when the two teams met in 2011.

According to The Mercury News, officials are planning a number of extra security measures for this weekend, including boosting the number of undercover officers in the stands who will sport jerseys of both teams.

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“The history of games between these two teams is known to us,” Santa Clara police Capt. Wahid Kazem said, acknowledging previous violent clashes among fans. “This will be quite different than any other football game we’ve hosted this year.”

Levi’s Stadium is also adding temporary holding cells, as well an additional 800 security cameras. The stadium will also be clamping down on any post-Halloween spillover, noting that they will not allow any masks into the event.

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Kazem said that police will exercise their discretion to end alcohol sales inside the stadium earlier than the standard end-of-third-quarter cutoff if they find themselves responding to an unusual amount of confrontations in the stands or concourses.

“We recognize the fact that this is a highly charged game and rivalry, and people can get overzealous,” said Jim Mercurio, Levi’s general manger and the team’s vice president of stadium operations. “For the most part, if people want to come down here and try to misbehave, they’re going to find themselves met with resistance. If you’re coming to the game to enjoy a nice rivalry and root for your team, you’ll have a great time.” 

The increased security comes as the victim of a parking lot assault at Levi’s Stadium earlier this month is still in critical condition at a local hospital.

David Aguilera Gonzales, 34, was charged with assault by means of force causing great bodily harm after he punched a man several times following the 49ers game against the Arizona Cardinals. Gonzales is free on $75,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court Dec. 13. 

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