The 49ers said yesterday that they "want a halt to the team's annual preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders after a violence-marred exhibition game at Candlestick Park in which two fans were shot, one was beaten into unconsciousness, 12 were arrested and dozens more ejected," according to a front-page piece by Cote & Van Derbeken of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The 49ers reacted to Saturday night's "alcohol-fueled mayhem by cutting the hours the stadium parking lot will be open before games, eliminating tailgating altogether after the kickoff and promising to punish season-ticket holders who sell their seats to troublemakers." Bay Area police said that they "would set up drunken-driving checkpoints around Candlestick and vigorously enforce laws against open alcohol containers on city streets." 49ers President & CEO Jed York: "The degenerate behavior that happened on Saturday is not going to be tolerated. ... There is a small segment of both teams' fans that when they get together, it is not a good environment." Both York and S.F. Mayor Ed Lee "suggested that part of the problem was season-ticket holders selling their seats with little concern for who was buying." Lee said, "We need them to be responsible about to whom they sell to." The 49ers said that they "would take steps to limit tailgating starting with the exhibition game against the Houston Texans on Saturday, including not opening the parking lot until four hours before kickoff." Team officials said that they also "would step up a program they implemented last year revoking the season tickets of people whose seats end up with thugs" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). York said that the 49ers will ask the NFL "to indefinitely postpone the yearly preseason game with the Raiders." Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask: "We look forward to discussing and addressing this issue with them in the same collaborative and cooperative manner we do all issues." In San Jose, Rosenberg, Maher & Kawakami in a front-page piece note the 49ers at Candlestick Park "will stop selling alcohol in the fourth quarter -- possibly earlier if the crowd is unruly." A "less stringent crackdown will get under way during Raiders games." Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said that the city "would beef up police presence during at least the next few Raiders home games, perhaps longer" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23).
CHANGE IS GONNA COME: York and Trask both appeared on S.F.-area KNBR-AM yesterday to discuss Saturday's game. York said, "It’s not going to be tolerated. We’re going to work with SFPD, NFL Security and with the Raiders and make sure for this game it doesn’t happen again. But more importantly for any game." He added, "We are definitely going to make sure we take all the appropriate steps … to make sure we have a great environment for our fans going forward." Trask said, "We simply can’t stereotype the fan bases as a whole by the action of a few." She continued, "When fans come to the game this Sunday, they’re not only going to see the robust security that we always have in the parking lots and in the stadium, but they’re going to hear from Raider season ticketholders and terrific, terrific members of the Raider Nation that any sort of behavior remotely resembling what we saw last Saturday night is not okay." Asked if the teams would consider banning alcohol sales at their respective stadiums, York said, "We cut alcohol sales much earlier than we normally do for this game and … that’s something that you’re going to have to address as a league and each individual team to figure out what’s the mood in the building." Trask added the Raiders organization evaluates security practices "every single day of every single month of every single year," and evaluating alcohol "is a part of that analysis." York indicated that Saturday's game being a preseason contest could have factored in the fan behavior. He said, "You don’t have your regular season-ticket holders coming to a game, I think that plays a big factor into it and that’s another reason why the NFL is looking at trying to revamp the preseason schedule" (KNBR.com, 8/22). But in response to York's comments, CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote, "This doesn't have anything to do with the NFL not having an 18-game schedule." York presented "an absurd notion that may have actually made the possibility of an 18-game schedule even more remote" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote, "We're at a complete loss as to what two fewer preseason weeks per season have to do with decreasing fan violence" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/22).
PICKING UP THE PIECES: In Sacramento, Matt Barrows in a front-page piece reports Saturday's "ugliness drew strong reaction Monday from the mayors of both cities and from the NFL, and it sent the 49ers, a team that is trying to build a new stadium in Santa Clara, scrambling to explain what went wrong and how they would fix it." Fans who attended the game said that "there was a strong police presence initially." But as the "game went on and the atmosphere deteriorated, police couldn't keep up" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/23). A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states city officials and 49ers and Raiders execs "condemned the violence in strong terms" yesterday, and the "sincerity of their disgust is unquestioned." The editorial continued, "But beneath the outrage were fundamental questions about how security could have been so unprepared for an event between rival teams that often tends to produce heightened tensions. ... Videos and eyewitness accounts of various fights suggested that security personnel were slow to arrive. If there were enough police officers on duty -- a big if -- they were not deployed strategically" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). Meanwhile, NFL Chief Security Officer Jeffrey Miller said yesterday that the league "will study the circumstances surrounding the fan violence at this past weekend's preseason game in San Francisco and eventually will take additional steps to safeguard those who attend games." But Miller indicated that the NFL "has no immediate plans for new security initiatives at stadiums because the league believes its current policies are generally effective" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/22).
NOT WORTH THE DANGER: Following news of the annual preseason game coming to an end, 49ers QB Josh McCown said, "If they need to end it to stop stuff like that, we need to put the price of people's lives and all that ahead of rivalry and what sells tickets. It would be a sad indication of our society if we view the other thing more than we do human life." 49ers OT Joe Staley: "The violence that happened at the game is unacceptable. Anything they can do to eliminate that, (I'm all for). Exhibition games are good work against anybody you're going against. The rivalry is nice, but what happened, transpired after the game, that can't happen" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). 49ers OT Tony Wragge: "It's a huge issue. I think the NFL is taking some big steps. I know they are doing an adequate job, but it still weighs on my mind." 49ers DT Ricky-Jean Francois: "You got kids, you got families, you got mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers coming to the stadium to see their son or grandson play. You don't want them to come to the game and have to worry about somebody having a gun in the parking lot, or fighting you in the bathroom" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23).
THE RIGHT SOLUTION? YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "Canceling the game seems like a bit of an overreaction to incidents involving a few people. ... I just fail to see what this solves." Chase added, "Get at the real root of the problem. Add some more security and police. ... There's always going to be rowdy fans clashing in the stands, it doesn't matter whether they come from the next city over or from across the country" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/22). An OAKLAND TRIBUNE editorial states, "Alcohol consumption must be curtailed. ... It may be time to end pregame parking-lot boozing. It also may be time to end alcohol sales midway through a game, or stamp the hands of fans each time they buy a beer to track, and limit, the number consumed" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 8/23). ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote canceling preseason games between the 49ers and Raiders "seems like a logical, if unfortunate response to the violence at Candlestick Park on Saturday night" (ESPN.com, 8/22). But Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said cancelling the game is a "league call." Poole: "The ultimate decider is going to be the NFL. The best that the Raiders and Niners can do with this is recommend that the game be postponed or canceled” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/22).
MOVED TO THE FRONT BURNER: ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted "ramping security around stadiums is an absolute," and that issue "will get a priority from the commissioner." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "himself has sat in the stands once or twice every year since he was elected to the job in 2006" (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 8/22). A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial states, "Confrontations, fights and shootings have no place at sporting events today. If the 49ers don't understand the urgency of creating a safer environment for fans, Santa Clara leaders should make it clear in no uncertain terms" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). In Sacramento, Tony Couzens writes, "While we're not questioning how sincere the executives were about the two shootings in the parking lot and a savage beating in a restroom, we do wonder if they ever venture into the stands at Candlestick Park or O.co Coliseum, especially the upper levels" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/23).
PART OF A LARGER PROBLEM: SI.com's Ann Killion wrote NFL preseason games "can get ugly," regular-season games also "have become a venue for violence and intimidation where, too often, fans are made to feel they can't express allegiances without being hassled or worse." The problem for the NFL is that "more and more fans may opt out of the highly charged, alcohol-fueled (and expensive) stadium atmosphere for their home television set, affordable refreshments and choice of company" (SI.com, 8/22). In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes, "Are you having second thoughts about going to a ballgame?" (K.C. STAR, 8/23). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "NFL Must Do More To Stop Fan Violence." Purdy: "The NFL has a problem" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes under the header, "Fan Violence A Troubling Sign Of The Times." Rather than "pretend it’s a freak occurrence, leagues and law enforcement would be better off figuring out how to combat that new reality" (TORONTO STAR, 8/23). In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes, "Solving this madness will take a community effort. It will take professional leagues dedicating more time and money toward security. ... Fans need to take an equal amount of responsibility" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/23). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti: "Where the trend is going seems painfully obvious. Sooner or later, someone dies. Maybe more than one someone. And then what?" (USA TODAY, 8/23).