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Fan death in Buffalo raises questions about ejection procedures

Ralph Wilson Stadium Getty Images

Two weeks ago, a fan who had been ejected from the game between the Dolphins and Bills later was found dead in a shallow creek.  And while the fan didn’t die on the stadium grounds, the tragedy raises important questions regarding the manner in which ejections are handled.

As explained by local NBC affiliate WGRZ.com, 26-year-old David Gerken, Jr. was ejected for disorderly conduct after leaving his seat to go to the rest room.

“Are they just taking their ticket and saying, ‘There’s the door get out‘?” Gerken’s mother said.  “Or is there some kind of responsibility either to the personnel at Ralph Wilson or the security firm to say . . . ‘Do you have anybody here with you?  And why don’t you wait over here and we’ll go tell your buddies that you’re with what’s going on’?”

The Bills explained their ejection procedures in an email to WGRZ.  “The individual is . . . escorted out of the stadium, unless it is determined by security personnel that the individual poses a danger to himself/herself,” the team said.  “Security personnel then may attempt to contact family or friends of the individual or seek medical assistance at the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) location at the stadium.  Depending upon the circumstances, the Designated Drivers Program of Buffalo or the Safe Way Home program may be utilized.  Naturally, the range of options varies depending on the level of cooperation of the individual.”

In this specific case, Gerken phoned his brother and explained he was being ejected.  They agreed to meet after the game at a bar near the stadium.We’re not second-guessing Gerken’s brother’s decision to stay put and not leave to meet his brother then and there.  But if the family plans to suggest that the Bills did something wrong by ejecting Gerken without ensuring that he’d be safe (the family declined to say whether legal action is being considered), his brother was there and his brother knew Gerken was being ejected.  While there may be reasons to revise the procedures that apply when a fan is kicked out of a game, this probably isn’t the ideal case to effect change.Still, every NFL stadium should use the tragedy as a vehicle for reviewing its own ejection procedures regarding the opportunity the removed fan has to alert the rest of his group, so that they can then adjust their plans in light of the fact that one of them will spend the rest of the game on the outside of the stadium.

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16 Responses to “Fan death in Buffalo raises questions about ejection procedures”
  1. pftcensorssuck says: Dec 2, 2012 9:45 AM

    The Bills felt that Gerkin was intoxicated, so he decides to meet his brother after the game, in a bar.

    Darwin meets football fan.

    Man gets drunk, man gets ejected, man calls brother, brother elects to finish football game …….this family has no right to sue the Bills, or anyone else.

  2. mz1394 says: Dec 2, 2012 10:14 AM

    the responsibility falls squarely on 1 person and 1 person only . If you cant handle your alcohol dont drink especially to the point where youre found dead in a creek. Teams have ZERO responsibility to babysit. Its called a football game not daycare

  3. polegojim says: Dec 2, 2012 10:15 AM

    He was a MAN with no apparent disabilities other than poor judgement and belligerence.

    Why would the Bills have any responsibility beyond their current process? Protecting the interests of the OTHER fans in the stadium is paramount at that point.

    Purchasing a ticket to a football game does not come with babysitting privileges.

    What happened to personal responsibility?

  4. j0esixpack says: Dec 2, 2012 10:17 AM

    Seems like Florio covered all the bases here.

    I don’t doubt some lawyers are encouraging the family to consider legal action. The question of the responsibility of venues for individuals who act irresponsibly enough to warrant their ejection is worth considering but this might not be the best test case.

    Sadly, if the individual himself had acted more responsibly in the first place this debate would not be occurring.

  5. thebigwhit says: Dec 2, 2012 10:24 AM

    Way is it that NFL stadiums need to revise there ejection procedures? One problem at NFL stadiums is that some people get drunk and ruin the experience for other paying fans. Kudos for this security personnel for ejecting a disorderly fan to protect other fan’s rights to enjoy the product they paid for.

    I am sorry this family is suffering this tragic loss? But they should be blaming the man who took actions that lead to his own death or the brother that did not feel the need to ensure his safety. This is a prime example of what is wrong with the world today. Everyone is in a hurry to blame someone else instead of holding people accountable for there own actions.

    If this man would have acted responsible and not in a way to get kicked out of a football game his family would not be suffering right now. Very sad situation made worse by trying to blame others.

  6. schmitty2 says: Dec 2, 2012 10:24 AM

    Stadium security should not have to babysit. If for some reason this guys family sued and won it was set a horrible precedence not only for sporting events but for bars and such

  7. truthfactory says: Dec 2, 2012 10:27 AM

    Go to the stadium to watch the game and have a good time. Its not the Bills job to babysit 65,000 people.

  8. crs334 says: Dec 2, 2012 10:28 AM

    Call me crazy, but am I the only one who believes people should be accountable for their own actions anymore?

  9. joeinbuffalo says: Dec 2, 2012 10:45 AM

    This is a shame no question–Man who died made choice to drink, needless to say this is most likely cause of death-not Bills fault, they should not be liable. What has happened to individual responsibilty ???

  10. blmonroe12 says: Dec 2, 2012 10:57 AM

    Everyone is looking for someone to blame. Reality is, the guy did it to himself and that’s sad. Seems like accountability doesn’t exist much anymore.

  11. spicyjimbolaya says: Dec 2, 2012 11:21 AM

    I would imagine this situation is similar to what bars have to deal with every night. If a bar (a public establishment) ejects a patron who is unruly (even though the bar may have contributed to the patron’s unruliness by serving alcohol), the bar can’t be held responsible for what the patron does after leaving the establishment.

    Short of the fan holding his car keys and saying he will be driving home drunk, it’s difficult to say the Bills could foresee the ejected fan being a danger to himself or to others.

  12. tannethrill says: Dec 2, 2012 11:56 AM

    I don’t think the Bills are at fault but this is an issue I’ve noticed for quite some time.

    People act like they can do what ever they want at games because most “just” get ejected. When someone is only concerned about being ejected and not arrested then they begin to act more loosely.

    Give people something to seriously be afraid of and they’ll clean up their act.

    Continue to kick them out after “likely” breaking some law without prosecution and people will continue to do things they wouldn’t do in normal environments.

    I’ll be honest, my level of action is surely based on my level of responsibility so if I don’t feel like I’m being held responsible or feel like there’s no serious repercussions to my actions then I’ll likely push the envelope.

    Unfortunately in order for teams to make money at games their business model must succeed and that model includes massive amounts of alcohol sales which then in turn causes the incidents that get people ejected.

  13. scott8nj says: Dec 2, 2012 12:03 PM

    I agree with all the comments. Was the cause of death determined? Did he just fall and smack his head or what?

  14. realitypolice says: Dec 2, 2012 12:23 PM

    Sounds to me like the Bills have a very thorough and responsible policy towards ejections. He was given the chance to contact the people he was with before he was ejected. It was his brother’s choice not to accompany him.

    I don’t understand why this case would raise any questions at all about stadium ejection procedures much less “important” ones.

  15. mogogo1 says: Dec 2, 2012 5:59 PM

    Legally, there’s not much more a team CAN do following an ejection. They could have the guy arrested if what he did to get thrown out was bad enough, but for more minor cases the ejected guy still has his rights; you can’t detain him for no reason. Offering to call his family or friends is a good policy–and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Offering to call the guy a cab or find a designated driver would be fine, but if the guy said “no” that would be the end of it; you can’t force him to take a ride.

  16. billsboy88 says: Dec 2, 2012 6:47 PM

    So how is this different from being kicked out of a bar for being too intoxicated? If I’m being drunk and belligerent in a pub falling over, causing fights and being generally rude is it the responsibility of the bartender to make sure I get home safely after being kicked out?

    I know we don’t know every last detail of the incident (and probably never will) but with what we know currently, I fail to see how this is in any way the fault of the Bills or the Ralph.

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