game debacle for the Redskins in Tampa, I hope all Buccaneers fans have to go through tedious, invasive searches. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they have a point, just that I don’t wish them relief.
Millions of fans attending National Football League games this season have undergone mandatory security frisks, and at FedEx Field the lines often back up to dozens of people. The tactic is one of the best ways to deter suicide bombs and other terrorist plots, league officials say, and most fans simply outstretch their arms and undergo it without objection.
But [Gordon] Johnston, a mild-mannered season ticket-holder from the nosebleed seats, has begun to raise a far-reaching ruckus. After suing the Tampa Sports Authority in October, Johnston won a court victory last week that at least temporarily halts the pat-downs at Raymond James Stadium, where the Washington Redskins are scheduled to play Sunday.
He said he dislikes being touched by “a total stranger” and believes that the potential terrorist threat has been wildly exaggerated. And with his initial court success, Johnston has become either a champion of civil liberties or a meddler whose challenge is, by restricting security measures, endangering the lives of his fellow fans.
“Hey, this is the United States of America,” Johnston said. “If you allow this, then it goes to all the other sporting events, then it spreads to restaurants and malls and every place there’s a group of people, then pretty soon what do we turn into?”
Possibly, he said, “a police state.”
I’ve been to probably a dozen games at
FedEx Field Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in the four years since Septmber 11, 2001 and have experienced the same security scrutiny that Mr. Johnston complains about. I don’t have the same level of passion against such searches that Mr. Johnston feels, even though I admit to not thinking too much about the legal foundation underlying the searches. I also trust that, when the process becomes a hassle, people will stay home and watch on television. Football’s (and other sports) owners will deal with the consequences of their policies. I am glad that people like Mr. Johnston care enough to challenge the policy and fight for the underlying principles of limited government, whether the facts warrant such consideration.
Personally, I have problem with the stupidity involved.
The NFL policy calls for every ticket-holder to stand with arms extended to be patted from the waist up.
“What’s to prevent . . . hands to accidentally go other wheres,” he testified.
Forget the possibility of hands going other wheres. It’s a legitimate concern and should be dealt with by the police if it occurs. But that’s getting stuck on stupid while ignoring the obvious. Patted from the waist up doesn’t cause alarm for anyone in the NFL so concerned with fan and team safety. What’s to prevent someone from strapping explosives to legs and other wheres? If the defense is that it’ll be obvious, why will it be? The NFL will play its games in the next three months in generally cold weather. Cold weather will allow for bulky clothes. How many terrorists with explosives strapped underneath their zubas do we need before someone learns that, if it’s valid (and legal) to search fans in this way, “from the waist up” is a stupid policy. Enemies adapt, especially when the policy is public knowledge. (I am NOT advocating making such information secret, of course.) Strategies like this offer little more than a happy sensation that we’re doing something, probably for the children more than anyone.