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New Law Proposed in CA for Major Sport Stadiums

California Bill Could Restrict Who Attends Sporting Events

By Jordan Kobritz

Don’t take me out to the ballgame. That could become the new refrain if a bill recently introduced in the California State Assembly is enacted into law.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, introduced Bill 2464, dubbed the “Improving Personal Safety at Stadiums Act,” which is designed to prohibit anyone who has been convicted of committing a violent crime in or around a Major League sporting event from attending similar events at stadiums and arenas around the state. Gatto says his bill was motivated by the vicious beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 2011. Stow nearly died from the beating, spent several months in a coma and is currently undergoing treatment for his injuries. The Stow incident — along with multiple acts of violence which included a shooting at an Oakland Raiders-San Francisco 49ers preseason game at Candlestick Park last year — brought renewed attention to the issue of fan violence at sporting events.

Gatto says his goal is to make fans who attend sporting events feel safe again. “There are so many people out there who are just afraid to take their kids to a ballgame,” he said. The legislator believes that taking away the ability to attend sporting events would be a strong motivator for fans to behave in the stands. “You’re taking away from people what they like most,” said Gatto. However, the bill’s effectiveness in limiting fan violence at sports venues is questionable.

Gatto’s bill would authorize judges to place anyone convicted of a violent crime at a sporting event on a ban list for a period of up to five years for a first offense, up to 10 years for a second offense, and up to 25 years for a third offense. The bill targets those who have been convicted of committing violent felonies such as robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, or infliction of great bodily harm. It includes crimes committed inside or outside of a stadium, while watching the event, entering or leaving a stadium, or tailgating. Bill 2464 would also assess each Major League sports team in the state an annual fee of $10,000 to fund the ban list along with a program to reward individuals who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators of violent stadium-related crimes.

While the bill would only ban convicted felons, it should be noted that violators of the ban would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

The California bill may be the first of its kind in this country. However, similar measures designed to stem violence at soccer matches have been adopted in England and Italy. While those countries claim their legislation has reduced soccer related hooliganism, even if Gatto’s bill passes, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

If the bill becomes law, the names and photos of fans who are convicted of committing violent crimes at Major League sporting events would be uploaded to the internet and distributed to sports venues, ticket offices and police departments throughout the state. Enforcement of the ban would fall to sports teams and stadiums, in addition to law enforcement. However, anyone on the ban list could easily purchase a ticket over the internet or obtain one from a third party.

With thousands of fans entering a stadium at once, it will be difficult for ticket takers or stadium security to react quickly enough to identify an individual on the list. Furthermore, the bill increases the potential liability of a team or venue if a convicted felon circumvents the ban and commits another crime in or around their sporting event. Anyone injured by someone on the ban list could argue that the team and/or stadium failed to fulfill their duty under the statute.

The bill only applies to those who have committed felonies at a sporting event. It does not apply to felons who commit crimes elsewhere, which suggests that not all violent criminals are equally dangerous to sports fans. It makes little sense to ban those who commit a felony at a sporting event from future entry to a sports venue while criminals who committed a violent crime elsewhere, say in a private residence, a bank or any other public place, are free to mingle with sports fans.

It should also be noted that Bill 2464 only applies to Major League sporting events and venues. Felons who commit violent crimes at Minor League and amateur sporting events aren’t covered by the proposal. Apparently, Gatto is unfamiliar with Timothy Lee Forbes, who was recently charged with assault and battery and felony mayhem for attacking the coach of a Catholic Youth Organization pre-teen basketball team that beat his son’s team. Nor would Gatto’s bill affect the likes of Shelly Miller, who faces felony battery charges for punching an assistant middle school basketball coach unconscious for making his daughter run extra laps after practice .

While those sporting events were amateur in nature, the violence which occurred was anything but.

Even absent Gatto’s bill, most judges currently have discretion in sentencing and can include a ban on attending sporting events for anyone who would be covered if the measure becomes law. However, that approach to ensuring the safety of sports fans wouldn’t provide Gatto with the free publicity that attended the introduction of his well-intentioned but difficult to enforce bill.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Associate Professor of Sport Management and Sport Law at Eastern New Mexico University, teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming, and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network. Jordan can be reached at

Volume 9, Issue 6 April 6, 2012 Sports Litigation Alert is a bi-monthly publication of Hackney Publications. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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