Mike Fiala/AP
A police officer arrests an unruly fan following an Arizona Cardinals game at Sun Devil
Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

NFL’s Fan Crackdown Both Overdue and Underwhelming

August 07, 2008 10:19 AM
by Denis Cummings
Hoping to reduce violent and disruptive behavior in NFL stadiums, the league released a revised code of conduct for fans that has been met with relief, confusion, and scorn.

NFL Wants ‘Safe, Comfortable, and Enjoyable Experience for All Fans’

Staying true to an off-season promise, the NFL has released a league-wide fan code of conduct that includes bans on drunkenness, cursing, harassment of opposing fans and “behavior that is unruly, disruptive, or illegal.” Fans who violate the rules will be ejected from the game and potentially lose their season tickets.

“We are committed to improving the fan experience in every way we can—from the time fans arrive in the parking lot to when they depart the stadium,” said Goodell. “We want everyone to be able to come to our stadiums and enjoy the entire day.”

In the past, individual teams have implemented creative ways to deal with rowdy fans. In 1997, the Philadelphia Eagles established a court and jail in the basement of Veterans Stadium, where fans faced fines, revocation of season tickets or imprisonment until the game ended. The Cincinnati Bengals tried implementing a hotline, known as the “Jerk Line”, where fans could report other fans behaving badly.
However, unruly behavior persisted at NFL games. This past season, The New York Times ran a piece on Jets fans who heckled women to expose their breasts. The piece was an embarrassment to the NFL and many believe it spurred NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make fan behavior a point of emphasis this off-season.

During off-season owners’ meetings, Goodell pressed teams to cut down on unruly fan behavior. The Chiefs issued a revised code of conduct in June, which included a rule against “standing and/or obstructing the view of other fans.” The rule was ridiculed on blogs and message boards, with a typical commentator comparing a Chiefs game to a tennis match.

The Chiefs later clarified the rule, banning only “continuous standing.” Other teams issued new codes of conduct as well; the Raiders included included a rule forcing fans to turn offensive shirts inside out, while the Steelers banned “displays of affection not appropriate in a public setting.”
Now, the NFL has created a standardized code of conduct, but it will allow teams to add rules as they see fit. It has been welcomed by many fans who are tired of rowdy and disruptive behavior. “There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a football game while you’re sitting within ear shot of some drunken idiot with a big mouth,” writes EMBQ’s David Kindervater. “I know these types won’t completely disappear, but at least some measures are being taken to help prevent the idiocy.”

However, others doubt that the new restrictions will have any effect. The vaguely written rules seem to prohibit common fan behavior without singling out truly unruly fans. “My concern here is how the NFL will go about interpreting such a policy,” says a FanIQ blogger. “If it’s going to black and white, each stadium will be empty by the start of the second half, as the above list reads more like a ‘to-do’ than a don’t.”

Finally, CBS’ Ray Ratto finds it ironic that the NFL is instructing others how to behave after a season marked by a cheating scandal and legal troubles for many star players. “The NFL,” he writes, “which has been in embarrassing, illegal and downright creepy situations on an almost steady basis for years now, is basically telling you your behavior isn’t up to their lofty standards.”

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