Undercover Cops Coming to an NFL Game Near You
Sports stadiums are great places for brawls to break out. Or fist fights, alcohol induced screaming matches, or a whole litany of other inappropriate behavior. So, in some cities with NFL teams, police are coming up with new ways to try to stem the violence. In Seattle, for example, members of the police force are going to go undercover as opposing teams’ fans. At last night’s game against Green Bay, Seattle officers planned to wander around in Packers’ garb.
Apparently this is not a new thing — officers have shown up to games a few times before dressed as opposing teams’ fans. In a post-season 49ers-Giants game last year, for example, there were undercover cops in Giants wear.
The move is an interesting and pragmatic one in a sport that has a history of fighting almost as old as the NFL itself. It’s not hard to find examples of two teams’ fans getting into it — take the nasty fight between fans of the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys last October, for example. Two groups, each wearing their teams’ jerseys, brawled in the stadium parking lot after one woman slapped a man for reasons still unknown but probably related to the game that had just let out. The fight escalated until people were hit over the head with beer bottles in a confrontation that lasted for a total of 25 minutes. In a follow up with the police after the fight, local news station NBC 7 learned that there are arrests after pretty much every Chargers home game.
The fights don’t even always happen during games that really matter. A few years ago, after a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, two men were shot in an apparent sports-induced altercation.
It’s pretty easy to understand how football games, and other sports for that matter, can end in blows. In addition to freely flowing alcohol, there’s something about sports that can get people so completely riled up. Christian End, a professor of sports fan behavior at Xavier University, explains the phenomenon, pointing out that it’s easy to get swept up in a crowd. As End explains it, “the anonymity of large crowds can afford some fans the opportunity to act in a way that they typically wouldn’t because there’s less accountability and less fear of repercussion.”
There’s few solutions to the problem of fan violence at football games, and the ones that do exist seem entirely unlikely to be implemented. For example, given that alcohol is often fuel for these fights, it would make sense to ban alcohol at sporting events, or at the very least install some sort of drink limit. But given the huge profits made from selling alcohol at football games, I highly doubt any NFL team would ever comply.
So, here we are, with undercover cops dressed up as fans from incoming teams. Well, sort of. They’re undercover in the sense that they are not easily distinguishable as cops, but in Seattle the police are being very forthright about their plans. The operation is an attempt to deter violence in the first place — a message to Seahawks fans not to attack that jerk in the Packers shirt, because he may be able to turn around and arrest you. If it goes well, and the officers are able to respond accordingly to any violence that does break out, it’s a model that would be pretty easily implemented throughout the country at games that are high risk for confrontations. Fights will probably still happen, but hopefully some would-be brawlers will think twice.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [Jame and Jesse via Flickr]