San Francisco 49ers fans are in the news this week, and for the second time this season, it is not for good reasons. A YouTube video has emerged showing a pair of fans attacking other fans in the bathroom at Levi's Stadium, leaving one of the victims knocked out and potentially suffering brain damage. This came two weeks after a bloody brawl was captured on video at the 49ers-Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The last few years have not been particularly good for the perception of 49ers fans. There have been multiple instances of fan violence, some involving just 49ers fans, and some involving 49ers fans going at it with opposing team fans. Alcohol is likely part of the issue, and maybe it makes sense to limit alcohol sales in some way. However, given some of the extreme violence we have seen in recent years, this goes beyond just alcohol. There are some decidedly violent individuals who are able to purchase tickets through the secondary market and then are out looking for trouble.
The 49ers announced earlier this week that the two people arrested were not season ticket holders. While it is great that the 49ers would boot season ticket holders for such issues, it really doesn't matter in the big picture. Tickets are easily sold on the secondary ticket market, and most such sales are almost entirely anonymous in nature. Any random person can go to Stubhub and buy tickets to a game, and nobody will be the wiser.
At times it is easy to feel powerless about these kinds of disgusting incidents. While it might be easy to just pass this off as a few violent thugs, this still reflects incredibly poorly on the reputation of the 49ers fan base as a whole. Even if this is only a minority of instances, the fact that it is happening at all should not stand. I had a chance to discuss this with Steve Berman (Bay Area Sports Guy) and Ryan Sakamoto (Ninerfans.com), and we decided that as fans of the 49ers, we had to say something about this. It is not a simple process to end fan violence at sporting events, but we have platforms upon which we can speak out.
Steve put together three steps to try and stop this distressing trend. I thought I would follow his format, with some of my own thoughts on each. None of this is meant to generalize what is going on with 49ers fans, but it is important for people to recognize the problems, and what can potentially be done.
Step One: Admitting there's a problem
As Steve pointed out, for years, 49ers fans were quick to point to Oakland Raiders games as the place where violence happened. There is this view that we as 49ers fans are better than that, and many of us would turn our noses up at the Raiders and the Coliseum.
That has to stop. The issue of violence is not new, but the current perception dates back to the 49ers-Raiders preseason game in 2011. There was a post-game stabbing, but it went beyond that. I was in attendance at that game, with a credential that allowed me to wander around the stadium. I moved between several areas during the first half, and during that time, I saw at least four separate fights. And I don't mean yelling at each other. I mean punches being thrown and security having to pull people apart. I chose to leave that game at halftime because I was concerned about that happening somewhere near where I was standing.
As the 49ers prepared to move into Levi's Stadium, I figured the ticket and SBL prices would likely price out people there looking to cause problems and potentially get booted out of the stadium. This past weekend shows that is not entirely the case. Sure most fans are just there for a good time, but the issue of fan violence has not gone away.
The 49ers have a ton of great fans, but like every fan base, there are plenty of bad fans that create a poor perception about the rest of us. We cannot just say, well, Raiders fans are worse, or Team X fans are worse. We have to admit there is a problem.
Step Two: Don't just stand there, do something
We are not necessarily asking you to jump into the middle of a fight and help pull someone off. If you are not trained to deal with these kinds of issues, bad things can happen. However, you can do something. If you are in attendance at a game and see a fight breaking out, find security. Don't just stand there and let it happen.
There are apparently phone numbers to call or text about stadium issues, but it seems like they need to be more prominent. That being said, if you see a fight, you need to figure out a way to tell some kind of stadium official. You don't need to just shoot video to upload to YouTube. I say that because in the Levi's Stadium incident this weekend, one guy was shooting video, and occasionally pointing the camera to his own face. I can see value in getting a picture or quick video as evidence of the assailant, but the most important thing to do is find security so that any perpetrators can be detained. There needs to be consequences for idiocy, and getting arrested and charged with battery is one way to get the violent element out of the stadium.
Step Three: The 49ers need to get in front of this issue
The 49ers have police on hand, and the two assailants from this weekend were arrested and charged with felony assault. It is important that there be repercussions for this kind of behavior.
But the 49ers can do more. They can provide more visible information on contacting security when this kind of thing is happening. They can have security personnel stationed closer to bathrooms. There is always the concern about fights in the stands, but there are ushers and security making their way through the stands. The bathrooms are one area where security generally is not present, and these kinds of violent acts can slip by unnoticed by security.
This problem has gone on long enough, and it is time for 49ers fans to step up for each other. We are not expecting you to jump into the middle of fights, but there are ways to help curb 49ers fan violence. Steve summed it up best, so I'm just going to post what he had to say in his own words:
This is all about keeping people safe. Along with the audiences of Niners Nation and Ninerfans.com, I'm hoping the 49ers supporters who read this site keep in mind that there's some work to do. It's not about vigilante justice, but having the backs of fellow fans, no matter what jerseys they're wearing. If you see a problem, try to solve it in any way you can. Avoid dangerous situations. If you see anything suspicious, alert the authorities. We need to protect ourselves and each other, and hopefully with added attention and a stronger focus on cleaning up this senseless behavior from the few jerks out there, we can prevent further tragedies, reverse this trend and scrub away the "violent fans" label.