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Kansas State court storm prompts safety questions

Nicole Auerbach and Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports February 24, 2015

College basketball’s court-storming days could be numbered.

Though policies related to fans storming the court are determined on an individual school and/or conference level, there seems to be momentum building to consider changes — whatever they may be — in the aftermath of an ugly scene following the Kansas-Kansas State game Monday night in Manhattan, Kan.

There, the frenzied Wildcat fan base flooded the court before Kansas coach Bill Self and his players could exit safely. Self was smushed between the mob and the scorer’s table. Multiple Kansas players were taunted by Kansas State fans, and Jayhawks forward Jamari Traylor was hipchecked by a Kansas State fan who appeared to go after him on purpose.

“It would be wonderful if we could snap our fingers and say everybody stay off the court, no court storming,” said Kansas State athletic director John Currie, who has apologized profusely for not protecting the Kansas coaches and players better. “We didn’t do a good enough job and are fortunate nobody was hurt.”

The Southeastern Conference bans court-storming and imposes escalating fines if the rule is broken. Currie, who came to Kansas State from Tennessee, felt that the SEC’s ban sent the right message, even if it didn’t always curb the act of court-storming. If the other members of the Big 12 wanted to impose a similar ban, Currie said he’d support that.

“It’s a way to indicate a clear position of a league,” Currie said. “I am not opposed to it. I also know that from experience that it has not stopped that practice. Has it minimized it? Perhaps. But clearly it has not stopped that practice. One would have to assess whether it is truly a deterrent versus a very strong statement.”

Each individual school and venue is responsible for its game day management and safety operations. In some leagues, schools gather annually to discuss best practices. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told USA TODAY Sports in a text message Tuesday morning, “We do not have a specific prohibition like some other conferences but we do have game management expectations and we will be reviewing the matter this morning.”

“First and foremost, there’s a number of precautions you attempt to take to ensure the safety of the officials and the participants of the game,” Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said. “In most cases, rushing the court is a celebration from an individual standpoint. What’s not understood is when it’s done in unison, it goes from celebration to something that’s extremely threatening from a safety and damage standpoint.

“That’s why it’s so critical that we request, we plan and we make sure we have security — the best that we can — in place for when those incidents occur.​ … Every conference, every school, it’s paramount with athletic directors; safety is non-negotiable.”

Hollis said he expects future conversations within his league, the Big Ten, about how far people are willing to let court-storming go before possibly implementing a penalty structure.

Self said Monday he is worried about fans hurting players, players retaliating and the potential lawsuits that could follow. He’s not the only coach who thinks the sport is dangerously close to something of that nature happening on the court in a chaotic postgame scene.

“I’m not a big fan of it,” Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta said. “That’s the frightening part — a kid, who knows what he’s going to do? You don’t want an altercation with one of your players and a student who’s not supposed to be on the court.”

Hollis said future conversations will assess potential ways to punish schools for court-storming, such as implementing fines or even, “the reduction of wins if you want to really get serious about the process.”

“I can recall the day when these were celebratory-type behaviors; it felt a lot safer,” he said. “It looked a lot more like a celebration (than) a mob. You still see some of that today, a total jubilation over a win. But then you see others when there’s obvious action within that process that turns from happiness to terror.”​

Officials: 25 people killed in Egyptian soccer match riot

Associated Press

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Officials: 25 people killed in Egyptian soccer match riot
Associated Press
By MERRIT KENNEDY 58 minutes ago

A pickup truck bursts into flames as a riot breaks out outside of a soccer match between Egyptian Premier League clubs Zamalek and ENPPI at Air Defense Stadium in a suburb east of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. The riot broke out Sunday night outside of the major soccer game, with a stampede and fighting between police and fans killing at least 22 people, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El-Gwad, El Shorouk newspaper) EGYPT OUT

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CAIRO (AP) — A riot broke out Sunday night outside of a major soccer game in Egypt, with a stampede and fighting between police and fans killing at least 25 people, authorities said.

The riot, only three years after similar violence killed 74 people, began ahead of a match between Egyptian Premier League clubs Zamalek and ENPPI at Air Defense Stadium east of Cairo. Such attacks in the past have sparked days of violent protests pitting the country’s hard-core fans against police officers in a nation already on edge after years of revolt and turmoil.

Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the violence killed at least 25 people.

Egypt’s public prosecutor issued a statement ordering an investigation. The Cabinet convened an emergency meeting to discuss the violence, Egypt’s state television said.

What caused the violence wasn’t immediately clear. Security officials said Zamalek fans tried to force their way into the match without tickets, sparking clashes. Fans have only recently been allowed back at matches and the Interior Ministry planned to let only 10,000 fans into the stadium, which has a capacity of about 30,000, the officials said.

Zamalek fans, known as “White Knights,” posted on their group’s official Facebook page that the violence began because authorities only opened one narrow, barbed-wire door to let them in. They said that sparked pushing and shoving that later saw police officers fire tear gas and birdshot.

A fan who tried to attend the game, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity out of fear of being targeted by police, said that the stampede was caused by police who fired tear gas at the tightly packed crowd.

“Those who fell down could not get back up again,” the man said.

The Zamalek fan group later posted pictures on Facebook it claimed were of dead fans, including the names of 22 people it said had been killed. The AP could not immediately verify the images.

Egypt’s hard-core soccer fans, known as Ultras, frequently clash with police inside and outside of stadiums. They are deeply politicized and many participated in the country’s 2011 uprising that forced out President Hosni Mubarak. Many consider them as one of the most organized movements in Egypt after the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which the government later outlawed as a terrorist organization following the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The violence comes as police face increasing scrutiny following the shooting death of a female protester in Cairo and the arrest of protesters under a law heavily restricting demonstrations. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pledged to bring stability to Egypt amid bombings and attacks by Islamic militants, but also has said Egypt’s emergency situation meant that some violations of human rights were inevitable, if regrettable.

The deadliest riot in Egypt soccer history came during a 2012 match when Port Said’s Al-Masry team hosted Cairo’s Al-Ahly. That riot, at the time the deadliest worldwide since 1996, killed 74 people, mostly Al-Ahly fans.

Two police officers later received 15-year prison sentences for gross negligence and failure to stop the Port Said killings, a rare incident of security officials being held responsible for deaths in the country. Seven other officers were acquitted, angering soccer fans who wanted more police officers to be held accountable for the incident and other episodes of violence.

In response, angry fans burned down the headquarters of Egypt’s Football Association, also protesting its decision to resume matches before bringing those behind that 2012 riot to justice. They’ve also protested and fought officers outside of the country’s Interior Ministry, which oversees police in the country.


Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi, Acer Hoteiba and Jon Gambrell contributed to this report.

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