The NFL has made great strides in recent years to lure fans away from their couches, back into stadiums. The one area that this effort has been slow-moving has been actually in the stands of pro football games. The Seattle Seahawks, in an effort to ensure safety as well as a positive atmosphere, are looking to take a step in the right direction against the 49ers.
“In an effort to weed out unruly fans, the Seattle Seahawks say they will have undercover police officers wearing opposing team apparel beginning with Sunday night's highly anticipated matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
“The Seahawks announced the plan Wednesday, saying the goal is to ensure a safe environment for all fans, including those supporting the visiting team.”
One of my complaints, as an out-of-market fan, has always been the level of abuse one must take to support his or her team in an away team’s stadium, especially if it’s a division rival. Yes, teams are most interested in catering to their own fan bases, but the NFL as a whole receives too much bad press for angry fans abusing other fans based only on which team someone is supporting.
The problem isn’t an easy one to fix either. When you mix beer, sports, and possibly a bad performance, fans aren’t going to treat each other in a civil manner. That’s where the Seahawks hope their undercover officers will be of help.
Most NFL stadiums have some sort of number you can call/text or a place you can go to report unruly fans, but that’s just not enough. In addition, stadium personnel rarely step in to remove an obnoxious or abusive fan before things become violent.
KOMO News also reports that any fan asked to leave the game will have to complete an online course at his or her own expense before being allowed to attend another game. While the course won’t likely change the behavior of many fans, it may be just enough to keep them from coming back to the games at all.
Going to NFL games can be a great and fulfilling experience, but it can also be miserable if you’re sitting near the wrong people, wearing the wrong colors. The Seahawks’ step of adding undercover officers into the mix may help, but unless they have a lot of officers in the crowd, it’s not going to make a huge difference. The NFL needs to continue to explore ways of ensuring a safe, civil atmosphere at games around the league. If successful, the Seahawks’ plan could be implemented around the league. Stay tuned.