As the fan violence escalated at Saturday’s preseason NFL game between the Raiders and the 49ers at Candlestick Park, security officials received a message through Badfan, a system in the stadium that allows people to text tips about unruly behavior and fights.
The message said a man was causing problems in the stands. But when security personnel arrived, they found a woman, laughing and pointing at her embarrassed boyfriend, who was the victim of the prank.
“Quite frankly, it happens every game. It’s like, ‘Are you serious?’” said Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations and security for the 49ers. “We can laugh about it except when you’ve got numbers of these coming in and you have to divert and send resources down to the seats.”
During and after Saturday’s game, more than 50 people needed medical attention, including one man who was beaten unconscious in a restroom and two men who were shot in the parking lot. Police and team officials said they expected a safer environment this Saturday when the 49ers play Houston at Candlestick, but they said a general lack of respect for authority might have contributed to last weekend’s mayhem.
Fans sent roughly 40 Badfan messages on Saturday. More than half were false or pranks, Mercurio said.
According to police reports, during one fight, a drunken fan spotted some officers on bicycles and yelled, “Take their bikes!” Later, as other officers tried to break up a large fight in Section 36, a fan bit an officer’s forearm and refused to let go.
Mercurio said he believed that many fans viewed ushers, security and other stadium personnel with disdain.
“I think they look at these folks as if they have zero authority,” he said. “They discount them, even, in some cases, as people, which is absolutely despicable. Last Saturday night, they didn’t even respect the people who had badges and guns. It’s a problem.”
Security at 49ers games is largely provided by the San Francisco Police Department and the Contemporary Services Corporation, a private security firm that has contracted with the team for two decades. After Saturday’s game, some fans complained that security officers seemed more concerned with enforcing a ban on smoking than with clamping down on the violence.
Mark Glaser, senior vice president of Contemporary Services, rejected the criticism. “I invite anybody to come down and go through our training, and experience what our hourly employees have to do for those folks who overindulge, who just think that if they purchase tickets they can act like idiots,” Glaser said.
A record number of uniformed officers are expected to attend Saturday’s game, and the authorities hope fans will help maintain order.
“Take a little bit of responsibility for your own behavior,” Mercurio said. “If you can do that, well, gosh, doesn’t that change the whole game?”
This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times.