Code of fan conduct comes under legal attack

Every NFL team has adopted a code of fan conduct, requiring ticket holders to refrain from certain behaviors — and reserving the right to eject them if they fail to comply.  In San Diego, a judge has found that policy to conflict with the First Amendment.

Though the legal action doesn’t directly challenge the legality of the code of conduct, Judge Gale Kaneshiro previously threw out battery charges brought against a fan who allegedly punched and bit a security guard while the guard was trying to remove the fan for yelling obscenities and flashing the middle finger to other fans.  The judge reasoned that the fan had a right under the First Amendment to express obscenities, and that the fan had a right to defend himself when the guard tried to physically force the fan to leave.

Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press reports that, on Friday, the fan’s lawyer will present a motion to the court requesting that the fan’s arrest record be expunged.  City attorney Jan Goldsmith is opposing the motion.

The NFL has filed an affidavit in support of Goldsmith’s position.  Specifically, NFL security chief Jeffrey Miller said that the code of conduct has reduced incidents at games, and that it has faced no other legal challenges.

“What this is about is, does the NFL have the right to evict fans who violate the code of conduct?  If the answer is no, then this fellow and other fans can simply say, ‘No, I’m not leaving,’ and they can use violence to avoid eviction,” Goldsmith said.

The fan’s lawyer, Mary Frances Prevost, disagrees.  “You can’t print something on a ticket and call it a contract,” Prevost said.  “It’s not enforceable.  To have a contract, you have to have an offer and acceptance.  What if they said, ‘We want you to dance and do three cartwheels when you walk through the door?’  You wouldn’t have to if you didn’t want to.”

But even if it’s not a contract, and even if the purchase of the ticket doesn’t amount to an acceptance of all of its terms and conditions, a ticket to a sporting event constitutes a license to enter and remain at the stadium.  The owner of the premises and/or the operator of the event have the ability to place reasonable restrictions on that license, especially when the behavior of one licensee can impact in a negative way the experience of another licensee.

Besides, most municipalities have one law or another that would prevent the yelling of obscenities and/or the repeated flashing of the middle finger in a public place.  Freedom of speech relates to the expression of ideas and opinions, not the unrestrained articulation of profanities.

Hopefully, Judge Kaneshiro will see the light.  Even more hopefully, no one else will get the bright idea to try to challenge a provision that helps the league attract more people to choose paying for a ticket over watching the game at home, where the only obscenities are uttered by a drunken uncle moments before he passes out on the couch.

52 responses to “Code of fan conduct comes under legal attack

  1. What is the big deal with a little profanity and the middle finger at a sporting event? That’s certainly much more tame than the brawls that regularly erupt at football stadiums. I mean, face it, any time you have flowing beer, intoxicated men, and high emotions you’re going to hear some colorful language. You wouldn’t walk into a bar and expect everybody to be saying “shoot, I dropped my darned beer”. After all, words are just that. People need to quit being so freaking sensitive. I’d much rather the guy yell some curse words and wave a finger around than toss his beer at someone and take a swing. I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but that’s how I feel. I don’t want to be censored when I pay $200+ to go see my favorite team play a passionate, emotion filled game.

  2. If you google the original story minus Yahoo’ commentary, you’ll see the guy didn’t even need to be evicted as he was giving fans the finger as he was already leaving the stadium. The fans that where harassing him the entire game because he was wearing the enemy’s colors and his team was getting a beat down. By the way, he’s suing the security guards and Qualcomm over it.

  3. Oh jeez…. The court’s have been through this for a hundred years. The First Amendment’s limitation comes into play when the actions of one cause harm or the potential for harm to others, ie; yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.
    The problem of the drunken fools and bullies is resolved in a rules sign at each gate and reinforced by the security guards asking patrons before entry if they agree with the rules written on that sign.

  4. This isn’t what the 1st amendment is about, it’s about protecting unpopular speech. Free speech isn’t the right to anarchy speech. This judge isn’t schooled in law and is instead making law.

    I know that this post will get lots of hate from viking fans who think they can express themselves with every gutter word their minds can hold, but I should be able to take my kid to a ball game (this is why I don’t go to the MetroDump anymore) and not feel like I need to clean my ears with acid and vinegar because of the vulgarities used by viking fans.

    And if you don’t believe me, check out any viking thread here… It’s absolutely disgusting and if I were a viking fan I’d keep my brethren in check.

  5. (SARCASM)

    Do we really want to live in a society where the “unrestrained articulation of profanities” is illegal?

    It’s time for a Drunken, Profanity Laced, Fist Swinging REVOLUTION at your next local NFL game and I’m just the teetotaler to lead the Charge!

    Let’s Defend the @#$%^&* Constitution!

  6. I’d love to see someone who was in attendance while the ruling was being issued just stand up and give Judge Gale the finger and start shouting obscenities at her!

    I’d like to see the irony of her security guards forcefully escorting the unrully patron while she’s giving the ruling that it is unjust for security to escort out unrully patrons!

  7. “and that the fan had a right to defend himself when the guard tried to physically force the fan to leave”

    You have got to be f*cking kidding me

  8. This ruling must mean I can go to the local bar, start flipping people off and yelling obscenities. I can’t be kicked out by bouncers and better yet, people will have to put up with my behavior and refrain from kicking my ass. Ha, what a concept! Come on, where is this judge’s common sense? This has nothing to do with the first amendment. In most states that kind of behavior is a crime. Its called disorderly conduct and you can be arrested. Funny how judges make up the’re own rules….especially the federal ones.

  9. hey I’m not gonna lie, get a few beers in me at A game and i do the same thing, especially considering whenever i see the Ravens play they are the away team since i don’t live in Baltimore.

  10. EV1 just enjoy the game…

    the game of football is intense enough, fans need to chill out and enjoy the game…

    I am as an INTENSE as a fan as anyone, but I still compose myself during games to not offend anyone or use foul language in front of the kids…

    1 bad experience could ruin it for a kid…

    case in point…

    Colts @ Ravens ’06 divisional playoff-

    lil girl is walking up the stairs wearing a blue manning jersey and a grown man ravens fan starts yelling at her and says ” your ugly”…really?

    that was nothing compared to the “break mannings legs” chants…

  11. lol….he only did what everyone who has been kicked out wanted to do…..punch and bite the security guard when they try to boot you.

    As outrageous as it sounds, you do have the right to defend yourself against law enforcement officials when they are depriving you of your constitutional rights. It’s a tough case to win, but “hey, it’s California”.

  12. This is exactly what is wrong with our society today. Any person can go around acting like a complete idiot while disregarding everyone around them and them make the “I paid $200 for my ticket so I get to do what I want” defense.

    These people don’t give a moments thought of the dozens of people they are affecting who also paid money. Their self centered, egotistical, childish minds think that their money and time is more important than anyone else.

  13. Okay … so we’re all supposed to sit there and put up with some drunken a-hole, whose “rights” we dare not intrude upon?

    Lord, I love lawyers and glorified lawyers (judges) almost as much as I love politicians …

  14. I’m a little torn on this. On one hand, the judge’s decision seems pretty stupid. On the other, I can never see enough pictures of Cleveland’s mayor.

  15. An NFL stadium is not public property. You can be thrown out for any reason, just as you could be refused service at a restaurant, or at any retail establishment. The judge is wrong. If you assault a mall security guard who asks you to leave the mall, you’ll be arrested and charged. This is no different.

  16. Lot of very, very uninformed people toss around the First Amendment as if it’s license to say whatever one wants.

    For the uninformed, this is the exact text of the First Amendment….

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    One little issue….the First Amendment bars the GOVERNMENT (i.e. Congress) from infringing on your right to speak…or otherwise punishing you, etc. I’m no expert, but I believe the only NFL team that is not privately owned is the Packers (and I think they’re just public – not government-owned). I know teams get taxpayer money all the time, but that does not make it government.

    Same thing with your employer. You do NOT have the inherent right to say whatever you want to your boss. Unless they fire you for an illegal reason (gender/race , etc.), they can fire you for ANY reason they want and no (ethical) judge will say otherwise.

    In short, if you act like an a$$hat at the football game, you can (and should) be kicked out. Just because it’s not illegal under the law does not mean it’s right and teams are well-served to expel the vermin that make it a point to be an affliction on society.

  17. Not surprising at all to see law people get the First Amendment wrong.

    It’s about one thing and one thing only: You will not be arrested for speaking out against your own goverment and country.

    That’s all it’s about.

    It does not allow for an anything goes mentality or actions. You can and will be sanctioned in ways that hold you accountable if you are unreasonable in what you say and do. Your first amendment rights are not violated because you get in trouble, ejected from somewhere or fired from your job or whatever because of how you behave, including words if your words are damaging or reasonably deemed a nuissance.

    This judge apparently went to Harvard Law.

  18. I remember when this site used to spare us the morality crap.

    In a game with men violently crashing their heads into each other, we’re concerned over a guy flipping the bird.

    If you don’t like it, tell your kids not to do it. It’s called parenting.

    Stop this PC crusade where everyone needs to act in accordance with your morals.

  19. Does this judge even know what the 1st Amendment is protecting? I don’t think our founders where thinking of obnoxious drunks in stadiums.

    I am all for Freedom of Speech. Practice it myself but when you get 80,000 people together certain rules need to be put in place in order for everyone to have a good time. To protect this moron is just setting a bad precedent.

    I was the Green Bay vs Lions game this year and saw a Lions fan doing something similar to a group of Packer fans. The security told the guy to either sit down or be tossed out. He choose to sit down. Had he been resistant they where going toss him and rightfully so. He was bothering even the Lions fans, no one wants to game and watch some idiot who can’t handle is liquor. FYI this isn’t about Lions fans but just an example, there is always one in every crowd. I have been in 13 stadiums in the NFL and you run into it every where.

    Ford Field is a nice facility and I got to meet Tommy Hearns, sitting a few rows in front of me. Nice guy, nice pin stripe suit as well.

  20. I’m a Raiders season ticket holder and i can honestly say that …emotion…passion and stupidtiy often become related when mixed with alchol and losing.

  21. If you can’t print rules on a ticket and call it binding, it seems to be the simple answer is having an agreement that must be signed when purchasing the tickets. That would be a legal, binding contract.

    This opens another can of worms as well, for several sports including hockey and baseball. I’ve never attended a minor or major league game that did not have a disclaimer of some kind regarding injury. If a foul ball hits you, that’s YOUR problem, is the basic gist. But…if the above is not binding, than a blanket release printed on the ticket would also be spurious and non-binding.

    Good news for lots and lots of lawyers, I guess….

  22. This is probably the most ridiculous ruling issued by any judge on any subject ever.

    The First Amendment isn’t even an issue here. The issue is does an individual or corporation have the right to choose who is allowed to visit or remain on their private property. The answer is obviously yes (with certain caveats to prevent racism etc).

    Of course, if a fan thinks they have paid for a ticket and then been unreasonably denied access to what they paid for then they can sue on those grounds. But that’s an entirely different legal argument and could indeed be argued along the lines of whether the rules are reasonable and whether the fan could realistically be expected to know about them before purchasing the ticket. But it is not remotely related to the first amendment or the right of the team to decide if the fan can be forcibly removed.

    Honestly, this judge should be fired.

  23. You know the nfl wants to protect the yuppy fans that are at the game on there cell phone and at the game just for business. Screw the loyal fan that loves his team and is there for his team.

  24. “You know the nfl wants to protect the yuppy fans that are at the game on there cell phone and at the game just for business. ”

    Yuppy? You mean the folks in the IZOD shirts? I think they stopped making those in 1988.

  25. eweezy32, they are protecting their product so fans don’t sit home and watch on TV rather than have to sit next to an idiot who doesn’t know how to behave like a real man. You can be a loyal fan without flipping off other patrons and acting like a donkey.

  26. I love this web site. everyone hates on young players hoping they fail and hoping bad things happen to so many players, but then when it comes to people cussing and swearing at football games everyone on this website acts all high and mighty like it’s the worst thing in the world. it’s funny how people work.

  27. The only thing that would make that picture better is if the kid was holding a beer in his other hand.

  28. I took my 3 year old to a baseball game last weekend and young guy standing by us shouted an F bomb during a play. Hearing that didn’t even phase me until the guy came over and apologized! I almost fell over in shock.

  29. This is the exact reaason why I’ve stopped going to games altogether. People don’t know how to act. Instant idiot: add alcohol. Seeing a drunken guy spit on an 8-year-old girl wearing an opposing team’s colors is what really did it for me. Now, these morons are going to be legally protected for this type of behavior? Thanks, but I’ll stay home.

  30. It’s not church, it’s not school, it’s a football game! I hope every one of you that is willing to give up your constitutional rights suffers from doing so! Keep being sheep……I dislike being so mean, but the Constitution is important to me..It should be to others as well.

  31. “Freedom of speech relates to the expression of ideas and opinions, not the unrestrained articulation of profanities”

    What’s a profanity and who gets to decide what is profane and what is not? What is considered profane when presenting a legal argument to the Supreme Court or attending a wedding is not necessarily considered profane at a football game.

    What’s next, are they going to patrol the sidelines and throw out a coach or a player for dropping an F bomb? If not, why is their speech not profane, but a fan’s speech is profane when it is exactly the same words in the same place at the same time?

  32. nascent22 says: Jun 15, 2011 11:49 PM

    Lot of very, very uninformed people toss around the First Amendment as if it’s license to say whatever one wants.

    For the uninformed, this is the exact text of the First Amendment….

    Thank you so much for pointing this out. People seem to think the 1st amendment gives them the right to say what they want, when they want, where they want to whomever they want and if you do ANYTHING to impede it, then you’re violating their 1st amendment rights. People need to realize that the 1st amendment only protects you from GOVERNMENT PERSECUTION. IE, you can’t be fined or tossed in jail for saying things that other people don’t like unless it puts other people in danger.

  33. This is exactly why many fans refuse to go to games ! I went to a game and a loud obnoxious drunk did nothing but scream obscenities, jump up and down so that we could see only part of the field, part of the time. He bullied his way through our seats and the rest of the crowd every 10 minutes to go to the bathroom or go get another beer ! He tried to start a fight with fans next to him on numerous occassions and made the whole experiance miserable for us and those around us.This kind of behavior is widespread and well drive away fans [ including me ] in droves ! If the NFL,Courts or Stadiums condone or allow this type of behavior….Great numbers of fans will STAY HOME !

  34. If you can’t stand yelling and profanity and being flipped off, then start watching golf or stay home! Ha Ha. In other words if ya can’t run with the big dawgs, you should stay chained to the porch anyway. Geaux Saints!

  35. I know this has been said before but, if you are gonna throw the constitution around and make sensationalist comments about how thing like this are eroding personal freedom, at least read the constitution and maybe some commentary on it. It will help you from getting made fun of by people that payed attention in high school government class.

    That being said, my personal opinion is that you should be able to say and flash whatever you want at a game as long as its not direct threats at those around you.

    But, along with that, its not like the players on the field can the words of one fan in 50,000. So you might as well not be a douche to those around you and their kids and go with a generic AGGGGHHHHGHGHGHH. Thats all the players are gonna hear anyway…

  36. Okay, let’s all get hammered and go down to Mary Frances Prevost’s office in our team jerseys, yelling, cussing and making obscene gestures. We’ll tell her that we’re just exercising our First Amendment right to express profanity.

  37. Will someone please show me or direct me to the nearest “obscenty book” or panphlet? These words that are considered obscenties are what most thinkers call “slang” english. These words mean nothing in its self, its just what appears in our tiny brains. The middle finger was taught to me in the 3rd grad by, I believe , a seventh grader. The middle finger means,,,Nothing. Eeeegads people, get over it. Let those amoung you, without sin, cast the first stone. If you ignore it,,,it will go away.

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