10 News Investigators: Fan fights at pro sports stadiums

9:40 AM, May 1, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Fla. - While millions of fans attend professional sporting events across the region each year, a small number of incidents ruin the experience for some fans looking for a family-friendly atmosphere.

The 10 News Investigators found reports of dozens of assaults and ejections related to fan fights. And nowhere in Tampa Bay was bad behavior more prevalent than Raymond James Stadium. 

"I was just kind of sucker-punched," said Steve Isaacson, a father of two and Bucs season-ticket holder, who was punched by another fan who was sitting in his seat last year. "There was a fist flying in front of my wife's face and it caught me in mine."

When Isaacson first saw the fan in his 200-level seat, he said he asked him to move. The man got aggressive before moving down one row. When the verbal argument continued, Isaacson said he got up to ask security to intervene, but before he got anywhere, he was punched.

The fan was arrested and charged with battery, one of 32 arrests at Raymond James Stadium last year. Nearly 200 more fans were ejected for problems in the stands.

Isaacson says the problem happened because ushers didn't respond when the disturbance first broke out.

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A representative from the Tampa Sports Authority, the public agency that runs Raymond James Stadium, tells the 10 News Investigators that incidents are bound to happen because Bucs and USF Bulls fans spend so much time outside in the heat and around alcohol while tailgating.

She also suggested that -- much like the George Carlin routine contended -- contact sports encourage fans to act poorly. Yet, the Tampa Bay Times Forum arrested just six people in 2011 during Lightning games.

While not all ejections and arrests are because of violent fans -- especially with a high prevalence of underage drinking at USF games -- Raymond James Stadium had a higher frequency of incidents during games than any other local venue:

Venue Team Arrests Arrests per 100,000 fans
Raymond James Stadium USF 119 37.2
  Bucs 32 6.1
  Total 151 18.4
Tropicana Field Rays 19 1.2
Tampa Bay Times Forum Lightning 6 0.8
Source: HCSO, TPD, SPPD 2011 reports; ESPN.com attendance report


Venue Team Ejections Ejections per 100,000 fans
Raymond James Stadium Bucs 186 37.9
  USF 69 21.6
  Total 255 31.5
Tropicana Field Rays 225 14.7
Tampa Bay Times Forum Lightning N/A N/A
Source: HCSO, TPD, SPPD 2011 reports; ESPN.com attendance report

Yet, Tampa Bay stadiums remain safer than many others across the country. The Oakland Raiders had to eject 448 fans last year, while arresting 144 more. Recently, video of a violent fight between fans at Yankees Stadium continued for several minutes without intervention.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Read his Sports Business Blog at Shadow of the Stadium.

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