For the second straight year, an ugly fight has marred a San Francisco 49ers game. Video has emerged of multiple 49ers fans attacking a Minnesota Vikings fan in the parking lot after the game. I am not linking to the video because it is disgusting, but it is easy to find online if you are so inclined.
We see a fan in a Vikings jersey on his hands and knees with 49ers fans swinging and kicking him. There is a lone security person trying to break it up, but with several cowardly 49ers fans taking shots, it was an impossible task. Eventually a second security person arrives and people disperse, but not before another stain on the 49ers fan base.
A 49ers fan on Facebook that was apparently on hand suggested there was more to this than the way people were painting it. Unfortunately, his comment was nothing more than an embarrassing form of victim-blaming. Here is what he said (I am not linking because it includes the video, and apologies for the language):
I'm seeing a lot of comments talking bad about the 49er fans without actually knowing what happened, so....
Here's the full story:
The Viking fan in the video and a 49er fan NOT in the video were talking smack to each other, getting into each others faces. A lot of fans from both sides were telling both people to stop and just walk to their cars. The 49er fan then walked away from the situation and that's when the Viking fan may have got a little cocky. The Viking fan turned around and addressed everyone behind him (mostly 49er fans). He said " what's up, any of you fuckers want some?!" At that point everyone went silent for 2 seconds then as the Viking fan was turning around to walk away, the 49er fan in the black (at the beginning of the video who threw the first punch) tackled him to the ground. That's where the video starts.
So, a fan talked trash and tried to verbally engage them in a fight. He then turned to walk away, and 49ers fans decided that was the opportunity to go after them. If that's the "full story", it's an embarrassing display. If you feel the need to attack someone because they talked trash to you, or even said, "hey, come at me", there are one of two issues involved:
1) Serious anger management problems
My guess is it is a combination of both, and continues to raise an issue across the NFL. The NFL will not be banning alcohol anytime soon. They get huge sponsorship deals from alcohol companies, and they know where their bread is buttered.
There is a feeling of helplessness when this kind of crap goes down. Alcohol will remain a problem at sporting events. Even if you segregated the fan bases in the stadium, as they do in European soccer matches, a lot of these issues end up happening out in the parking lot. Having more cops on hand would be one improvement. I did see a pretty large contingent of cops on my walk back from the stadium to the light rail, but by all indications, the people involved in this dispersed and were not arrested. These cowards should have been arrested for battery, but instead they are probably back home laughing about how tough they are.
And for those looking to defend yourself by saying, "well, every fan base has bad fans," this is a bigger issue than that. You can be a good fan but acknowledge your fanbase has some scummy people. Back at Candlestick, I had heard second-hand from NFL security folks that Candlestick was the worst stadium in the league for fan misbehavior. Levi's is more expensive, but people still get drunk before and during the game.
A year ago, a fight broke out in a bathroom at Levi's Stadium during the 49ers-Cardinals game, and resulted in a fan suffering brain damage. This followed a recorded fight between 49ers and Cardinals fans down at the game in Arizona. Following this ugly incident, myself, Steve Berman (Bay Area Sports Guy) and Ryan Sakamoto (NinerFans.com) each wrote about the issue and the importance of three steps to avoid this nonsense.
Not nearly enough has changed with regard to what people need to do when this kind of crap happens. I'm going to repost what I wrote about last year on this problem. References to Steve are to the link above.
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.