Unruly fan behavior, something has to be done

Manuel Austin shows the injuries he sustained during an attack

Taking your family to a professional sporting event should be fun and passionate, not dangerous. Drunks hurling obscenities and starting fights should not be tolerated.

In the past year, Bryan Stow, a Santa Cruz paramedic and San Francisco Giants fan, suffered brain damage after being beaten by two men outside Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last March. Several 49ers games this past season, including a preseason matchup against the cross-Bay rival Oakland Raiders and a second-round playoff win against the visiting New Orleans Saints, were the scene of dozens of fan fights and arrests, prompting 49ers officials to adopt stricter security measures and additional personnel for last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Manuel Austin, a former U.S. Marine from Los Gatos who lost four teeth and suffered a black eye during a skirmish moments before the 49ers’ Monday night showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers Dec. 19, is fighting back.

“It’s like the Wild West, and it’s out of control,” said Austin who has contacted 49ers President Jed York, Congressman Mike Honda, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Police Department and California Attorney General Kamala Harris in hopes of streamlining ways to prevent violence in professional stadiums and identify, eject and prosecute rowdy, boozy fans.

It’s a laudable goal. Security should be tighter at all the gates and everywhere in the stadium. Obviously inebriated fans who are unruly should be escorted out. If a drunk fan starts a fight, they should be charged with public drunkenness and any serious charge the district attorney can file.

A “no-tolerance” policy is what’s needed. It should not be frightening to pack up the children and take them to a ball game. 

“People come to see the games, so they shouldn’t be warring in the stands when the game is going on,” Austin said. “Right now, you can’t bring children because everyone is cussing, upset and drunk (at the games).”

Austin is inviting others who feel they’ve been victims of stadium violence to send him their accounts, from which he’ll compile a detailed incident database. That’s a start. Meanwhile, fans need to be reminded that it’s still just a game, so behave yourselves – even when the passions are burning.

Editor’s note: If you want to share your experience with Manuel Austin contact him at 593-3887.

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