Last week, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones blasted the concept of stadium bans, referring to such suspensions as a “slap on the wrist” following the team’s May 1 game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
According to Jones, fans at the historic ballpark taunted him with racial epithets during the Orioles’ 5-2 win, with one throwing a bag of peanuts at Jones as he made his way to the dugout.
Red Sox president Sam Kennedy told MassLive.com that 34 fans were removed from the game, including 20 who were tossed for alcohol-related reasons. It’s unclear how many of those ejected engaged in the reported abuse of Jones — or how many fans are kicked out of an average game — but the Boston Globe reported that one fan was banned for life by the stadium.
Regardless, Jones argued that neither penalty is harsh enough to end the behavior.
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“It’s pathetic,” Jones said, according to USA Today. “It’s called a coward. What they need to do is that instead of kicking them out of the stadium, they need to fine them 10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand. Something that really hurts somebody. Make them pay in full. And if they don’t, take it out of their check.
“That’s how you hurt somebody,” the five-time All-Star continued. “You suspend them from the stadium, what does that mean?”
According to experts in the field, it doesn’t necessarily mean much — and while bans are usually effective, they aren’t a foolproof way to keep troublesome fans from returning, especially if they’re determined to get back in.
Different states, leagues and teams have varying policies, but typically speaking, a violator facing a stadium ban is forced to sign paperwork before leaving the building agreeing to their own prohibition. In addition, any future tickets purchased by that fan are voided, and should that person return while the ban is still in place, he or she would be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.
However, while the threat of incarceration is certainly a deterrent, enforcement can be challenging.
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“(Looking out for) ejected fans is a priority,” said Dan Donovan, vice president of security and technology consulting for Guidepost Solutions. “But those guards’ biggest priority is that the screening process is being done correctly and that we don’t have prohibited items coming into the facility.”
To help catch banned spectators, ballparks, stadiums and arenas will often distribute images of banned fans to security staff. But while employees remain mindful of blacklisted fans attempting to attend a game undetected, those faces can be tough to spot among the thousands who flood the building’s gates.
“Security and guest services are there to make the event enjoyable,” sports security expert James DeMeo, founder of Unified Sports & Entertainment Security Consulting, said. “But they also obviously have that duty of care to make sure the fans are safe.
“On ingress, metal (detectors) and screening measures are really important in terms of staff having that situational awareness to look for potentially troubled or dangerous fans before they come into the venue,” DeMeo added. “But the key is for the staff to know the signs to look for with a disgruntled or agitated fan.”
At the University of Southern Mississippi, students and faculty at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security work specifically toward the goal of improving security at sporting events. Launched in 2006 on a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the Center researches the impact of spectator-related incidents nationwide and has provided training and certification to more than 5,000 security professionals and nearly 1,000 universities.
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“We constantly look at people, processes and technologies to see if we can try to solve problems,” Lou Marciani, the Center’s director, told FOX Sports. “This incident in Boston will trigger new best practices, it will trigger new rules and regulations from the leagues, and it will drive technology to the lab here, so we can begin to, long-term, solve the problem.
“And that’s really what the center does,” Marciani added. “We’re on the back end of things to make things better down the road.”
Another approach that could take the pressure off hired personnel and help nab unwanted fans is the use of facial-recognition programs and other biometric software, but implementing that emerging technology is costly and is far from a cure-all.
“In order to do facial recognition, first of all I have to have a good, clear picture (of the subject),” Donovan said. “Then I load the picture into my system, I’ve got a database of known offenders, and certain cameras, when set up correctly, are fixed on a focus area, and you can run facial recognition off of that and flag those people.
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“This isn’t Jack Bauer in ‘24’ though,” Donovan continued. “You’re not just pulling these faces off any old camera in the stadium. So it’s an investment for the stadium operator, the team, in order to add this capability for the number of doors, the possible entry points to their perimeter. And every building is different.”
With time, such systems will become more commonplace — ”I think it’s coming,” Donovan said, “and it’s going to come quickly” — but for now the onus still rests largely on the security and guest services representatives manning the building’s front line.
Fortunately for the teams and leagues that occupy these spaces, simply asking fans to leave and not come back is almost always enough to keep them away from good.
“Usually the trespass warning cures the situation,” said Ed Boyens, security manager for the City of Orlando venues division, which oversees operations at Amway Center and Camping World Stadium. “And it’s very rare that we do see somebody come back.”
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