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Volume 21 No. 6
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NFL: Fans ejected from stadium will now be barred from others

The NFL next year will ban fans ejected from one stadium from attending games in other cities, a move that comes on the heels of a series of high-profile fan violence incidents this season.

The league’s security department also is recommending to owners that teams deploy hundreds of security cameras around their stadiums, use guest-services employees to patrol sections and radio in fan problems as they occur.

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SBJ Podcast:
NFL writer Daniel Kaplan and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour discuss the news that came out of last week's NFL owners meeting.

“Ejections are so small as a percent of fans; 8,000 fans [ejected] last year,” said Ray DiNunzio, the NFL’s director of strategic security. “My guess is many are repeat ejections, so a universal ban will help.”

The league will equip personnel ejecting fans with smart readers so they can input information about the fans. Through a centralized database, that information, perhaps including photos, will then be shared with other stadiums, DiNunzio said. Teams will get a list each week of fans banned from entering stadiums. The challenge is for the technology to provide enough information to stadium security to catch fans who are barred, he said.

The NFL is working with Haystax Technology of McLean, Va., on the initiative.

Fans who are ejected must complete a course on fan conduct and then reapply for entry to the team that ejected them.

The Cardinals’ Michael Bidwill chairs the stadium security and fan behavior panel.
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The universal ban comes in tandem with what NFL security officials hope is the deployment of thousands of cameras across NFL stadiums to capture misbehavior. Security could then call up that footage instantly after an incident to identify the guilty party, DiNunzio said, adding that he wants every inch of a stadium and its perimeter monitored.

About half the league’s teams already have some level of camera coverage, but DiNunzio wants the league to make the cameras mandatory. The owners’ fan committee must first recommend that action and then pass the measure to full ownership. Michael Bidwill, the Arizona Cardinals owner and chairman of the league’s stadium security and fan behavior committee, confirmed the group is reviewing several policy changes but declined to elaborate.

DiNunzio also is urging teams to implement mandatory ejections for any violation of the league’s code of conduct, which covers things like verbal abuse, abusive language and intoxication. Currently, teams have discretion to do so.

Earlier this season, a fan was rendered partially paralyzed in an assault in a Levi’s Stadium bathroom. In addition, two fans were stabbed in a Chicago Bears parking lot, and a brawl erupted at the Cardinals’ stadium in September.

Controlling fan misbehavior in a bathroom is particularly challenging, DiNunzio said: Cameras are not in bathrooms, and security patrols can’t be everywhere at once. He did not rule out at some point stationing security in bathrooms.

Parking lots offer their own challenges. Some teams have parking lot security towers and encourage fans to depart soon after games. The Oakland Raiders, for example, use search-light beams to shine on fans dawdling too long in parking lots, DiNunzio said.