SBD/August 24, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Violence At Candlestick Part Of Troubling In-Stadium Trend For NFL

The fallout from Saturday's Raiders-49ers preseason game at Candlestick Park, "marred by shootings and a horrific beating, is reverberating" throughout the NFL, according to Jay Paris of the NORTH COUNTY TIMES. The "severity of recent altercations -- on Saturday, a victim was knocked unconscious in a restroom, and there were two postgame shootings -- is raising numerous eyebrows." When safety is a "concern in the stadium or tailgating lots, that's problematic" for the NFL. Paris notes there are "families that have stopped going to Chargers games because of the unruly antics of a minority of patrons" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 8/24). SI.com's Don Banks wrote the NFL's "losing battle to promote the superiority of its in-stadium game-day experience suffered a not insignificant public relations setback with the outbreak of fan violence at the Raiders-49ers preseason game." Banks: "Perceptions matter, and anything that prompts more fans into staying home and plopping down in front of their HD widescreens, rather than joining the crowd at their local stadiums, isn't helpful to the league's efforts to compete with its own wildly successful televised product" (SI.com, 8/23). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes, "It will be a while before local football fans shake the images, news dispatches and hospital reports surrounding Saturday night's exhibition at Candlestick Park. Before too long, though, the NFL has to awaken to an undeniable fact: The fans' viewing habits are changing. More so each year, people find their weekends better suited to home television viewing than a potentially nightmarish experience at the stadium" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/24).

PART OF A BIG PROBLEM: Former 49ers President Carmen Policy yesterday said that the "beatings and shootings during and after Saturday's preseason game ... pose a serious risk to the NFL and its future success." Policy: "After Saturday, I heard so many people say, 'I'm not bringing my kids anymore.' That's horrible. That's a real problem for the NFL" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes under the header, "You Brought A Child To An NFL Game?!" The idea that it is "unsafe to bring the kids is unacceptable." Gay: "Here the weary sports skeptic asks: who brings a 4-year-old to an NFL game -- and a Niners-Raiders game at that? That stuff is for big boys only. You hear this about other games in other cities, too. Better to stay away. But that's a pathetic surrender. It can't ever be crazy to bring a kid to a sporting event" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/24). In Virginia, Bob Molinaro writes the NFL and its corporate partners "promote an image of fans as rowdy, beer-swilling Neanderthals, then they are appalled when the unwashed play out their assigned roles only too well." NFL on TV "provides a better show than what you get at the stadium" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 8/24). In Jacksonville, Scott Kendrick writes under the header, "Fan Fights Should Scare NFL." There is an "ugly side" to the NFL in-stadium experience. Kendrick: "Kind of makes you want to sit on the couch watching that high-def TV, doesn’t it? ... There’s no easy solution, but the NFL must address it. If not, more fans will be content to tailgate in their own driveways" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/24).

FIRST RESPONDERS: Stadium security experts yesterday said that the 49ers' "swift response to fan violence" during Saturday's game "may not prevent future outbursts of unruliness but it was a reasonable step toward restoring confidence in stadium security." 49ers officials announced on Monday a "ban on post-kickoff tailgating, use of post-game DUI checkpoints, and enhanced police presence." In addition, 49ers President & CEO Jed York said that he "wanted the NFL to postpone next year's preseason game with the Raiders." DC-based Levick Strategic Communications Senior VP Jason Maloni said that the team "took appropriate action rather than imposing tougher knee-jerk reactions." Maloni: "It's far preferable than taking such draconian measures like raising ticket prices or cutting off serving alcohol after the second quarter at games" (AP, 8/23).

SMART MOVE TO CALL FOR POSTPONEMENT
: San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami said it "seems like a quick decision” to end the preseason series between the teams, but added, “There’s still blood on the asphalt outside of Candlestick." Kawakami: "Not bad to calm it down a little bit. Wait a year or two or three and see where this stands when things calm down a little bit.” Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said, "If you're on the schedule against one another, got to have an afternoon game. And I’d have an early afternoon game” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 8/23). But in Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes, "Canceling the preseason series between Bay Area rivals, as York has proposed, is a reach. It's like stretching a bandage over an amputated limb." Voisin added, "We can't blame the Raiders this time. ... A thug is a thug is a thug. You can dress them in the black and silver of the Raiders or the scarlet and gold of the 49ers, but there is no disguising the fact that they remain a blight on the sports landscape and on society in general" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/24).

IMPACT ON AN 18-GAME SCHEDULE
: ESPN’s John Clayton reported the incidents Saturday night have "become a platform now for owners to start talking about going to the 18-game schedule." Moving to an 18-game schedule and "eliminating two preseason games pretty much limits the number of night games to two or three a week, knowing that the night games are predominant during the preseason.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners feel the preseason “is way too long but the problem is, the players aren’t going for it because of safety.” The situation is “ironic” because there are “safety issues for the fans that are affected by the night games and the drinking and all those different things." But CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said the idea that the incidents "wouldn’t have happened with an 18-game schedule is preposterous because one of the two exhibition games would still have been” 49ers-Raiders ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 8/23).

GETTING POLITICAL: In San Jose, de Sa, Emmons & Rosenberg report Saturday's violence "had lawmakers talking tough on Tuesday." California Assemblyman Mike Gatto said that he "will draft a bill to enhance sentences for those convicted of fighting at sporting events." His bill also would "create a fund -- fed by $50,000-a-year donations from each of California's pro sports franchises -- that would pay for rewards when suspects are being sought." Gatto added that "his bill -- which comes late in the session and will need to be inserted into an existing piece of legislation -- will assist police in making arrests" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/24).
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