Spurred on by a widely publicized letter from an angry fan, security forces at Candlestick Park appeared to usher in a new era of stadium etiquette last Sunday, ejecting a record 110 people from the high stakes showdown between the Niners and the Giants.
"We weren’t warning people, we were just removing them," said NFL security director Jeff Miller. "We went above and beyond perhaps what we normally do."
There were more San Francisco Police officers and security guards working the game, including undercover cops in Giants garb, and the stadium cut off alcohol sales after halftime. The result was a relatively peaceful event with only 29 arrests.
“It was in response to how some pretty credible Saints fans were treated at the divisional game,” Miller said. “We wanted to make sure we did our best to create a better environment moving forward.”
Miller was referring to Don Moses of Mill Valley, who wrote in a letter to The San Francisco Chronicle last week that he was shocked by the “hostility, vulgarity and intimidation” that he and his two daughters experienced at the Niners' raucous Jan. 14 home game against New Orleans. The missive was widely circulated on sports blogs and news Web sites nationwide.
The threats and curses, wrote Moses, were “literally nonstop by the hooligans around us in the stands. While walking through the lots we had footballs thrown at us, guys screaming curses in our faces."
The number of ejections Sunday was double the number made during the Jan. 14 game, and far exceeded those made during the 49er’s notorious pre-season game against the Raiders on Aug. 20, when police ejected 70 fans. Prior to that, the most recent record was 65 ejections during another Raiders game in October 2010.
According to data from the SFPD for 2009 and 2010, the most ejections in that period came during games against the Raiders, followed by a 2010 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, during which police and security officers escorted 47 people from the stadium. Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the increase in ejections last Sunday was likely due to “the late start of the game, alcohol consumption, a zero tolerance approach by police and 49ers security, and the educational campaign directed at fans to report unruly behavior.”
It isn't clear, however, how much credit should go to the anonymous text messaging service Badfan, which authorities have touted as a user-friendly tactic to help curtail potential fan violence. Since the service debuted in 2008, officials say that many texts have come from pranksters, others from fans who forget to send their locations. Cards with information about Badfan were distributed to Giants fans as they entered the stadium Sunday, but stadium security officials did not return requests for information about the use of the service during the game.
Of the 29 people arrested at Sunday's game, 16 were apprehended outside the stadium. One man, who had a run-in with authorities while caring for his 2-year-old son, was charged with threatening an officer and child endangerment. Another man was arrested after assaulting two police officers on the upper level of the stadium, police said.