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Fan on Fan Violence at Sporting Events in the U.S. Mimic Soccer Hooliganism

Violence at Sporting Events a Reflection of Declining Values in America

What prompts one fan of a sports team to physically lash out at a fan on the opposite side while attending the same sporting event? What ever happened to flinging words rather than fists at your opponent? Well, the trend towards violence at soccer events around the world seems to have made its way into U.S. sporting venues with sometimes disastrous results.  Just ask Bryan Stow the S.F. Giant fan attacked outside Dodger Stadium at opening day on March 31, 2011.

Bryan is paralyzed and struggles to regain the use of his arms and legs. His father lifts him from his wheelchair to go places. Caregivers come to help bathe, dress and exercise Stow, the 44-year-old former paramedic who suffered traumatic brain injuries when he was attacked and beaten into a coma in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on opening day in 2011.

The rest of each day, Bryan’s retired parents care for him, a divorced father of two who moved home in April after his insurance company decided it would no longer pay for his full-time care in a residential center for traumatic brain-injury rehabilitation.

There is no logical rationale for the increasingly violent nature of encounters by some sports fans on opposite sides. In addition to Bryan’s case, this past September, a 24-year-old Dodgers fan was stabbed to death near AT&T Park, home of the SF Giants.

The man who was fatally stabbed during a confrontation a few blocks from AT&T Park after the Dodgers-Giants game was the son of a Dodgers security guard. SF police say Jonathan Denver, 24, was walking with his father, brother and two other people outside the Giants' ballpark after San Francisco's 6-4 victory when their group exchanged words with some Giants fans. The exchange turned physical, and Denver, who was wearing Dodgers gear, was stabbed.

The suspect in the incident was released from custody after District Attorney George Gascon said police had insufficient evidence to charge him in the death of Jonathan Denver.

Fan-on-fan violence occurs at other sporting events as well. Most recently on Sunday night, October 26, a belligerent NY Jets fan punched a female Patriots fan in the face after New York narrowly beat New England. The Jets won the game 30-27 in overtime.

The wild fight erupted near one of the exit gates following the intense overtime victory on a field goal. The New York Jets fan caught on video punching a woman in the face after the team’s victory over the New England Patriots has sparked an investigation from New Jersey State Police.

In the video, the woman is seen walking toward the man at Met Life Stadium and she tries to push him before the man responds with a punch. The alleged attacker was wearing a Wayne Chrebet jersey (Jets No. 80) and camouflage pants, according to the NY Daily News.

Another man wearing a Patriots shirt then moves in to take a few swipes as the woman backs away. Eventually a crowd separates the two groups. There were no serious injuries reported in the fight.

Rowdy fans screaming and throwing things including punches at others has had a long history in the world of soccer. The FIFA World Cup matches tend to bring out the worst in fan violence at sporting events.

In the latest case of soccer violence in Brazil the host country of the 2014 World Cup, a second-division match was stopped when fans threw rocks and explosives on the field. There were no reports of serious injuries in the game. Television images showed one bomb thrown from the stands and exploding a few feet from police officers on the field. A few fans tried to break the fences separating them from the field.

At another event, seats were destroyed at a World Cup venue and police confronted fans inside two stadiums. Two matches were delayed because of fan fighting and overcrowded stands.

As is typical in any case of inexplicable violence, the answer of some people to preventing it from happening again or stopping it quickly after it has happened, is to pass legislation. California, a leader in needless legislation to “protect” its citizens, recently adopted Assembly Bill 2464, the Improving Personal Safety at Stadiums Act, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-L.A.), and that was signed into law by Governor Brown.

The Act requires major-league sports stadiums in California to clearly post the numbers fans can use to call or text-message stadium security, both inside and outside the venues. Most stadiums verbally announce the contact information for stadium security at the beginning of the game, but many fans don’t remember this number several innings later and in the midst of an emotionally charged altercation mere steps away, not to mention after downing 6 or more beers. Now fans don’t have to memorize this number – it will be posted at all professional sports stadiums and arenas in the state.

I suppose this is a good idea. But the problem of violence between fans brings me back to the basic point that ethics can’t be legislated. Ethical behavior comes from within a person who is guided by a conscience that knows right from wrong and who tries to act in accordance with societal norms of behavior. The problem is virtues such as caring and empathy; responsibility and accountability; integrity and selflessness; and respect for others’ rights to freely enjoy life without worrying about being harassed, bullied, or killed, have taken a back seat to self-absorbed behavior, moral blindness, ethical apathy, and a lack of consequences culture.

Every day we see increasing examples of the breakdown of what made America exceptional for so long – the virtues of hard work and dedication; civility in our actions towards others; recognition of community not individual needs; and a basic sense that we all were put on this earth to make it a better place after we pass on. Sometimes I ask my students to ask themselves what they would want written on their tombstones:

“Steve dedicated his life to making others’ better and improving the world” OR

“Steve did what it wanted, when he wanted to, without concern for the consequences of his actions.”

Blog posted  by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 29, 2013