California legislator proposes banning violent fans from pro sports games
Take me out to the ballgame? Maybe not.
California would become the first state to create a "Ban List" prohibiting violent fans from attending professional sports events anywhere in the state under newly proposed legislation.
The list would operate much like a restraining order: Anyone listed who went anyway would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Offenders' names and photos would be published on the Internet and sent to sports arenas, police agencies and ticket vendors by the attorney general's office, which would maintain the list.
Sure, banned fans could sidestep the law and have relatives or friends buy tickets for them, but if they subsequently caused a commotion and were discovered at a stadium, their presence could draw a one-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto said his measure is aimed at senseless violence such as the nearly fatal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow outside Dodger Stadium last year.
"Violence is something that has made a lot of parents be a little afraid to take their kids to the ball games, so I think we need to step in and do something," said Gatto, D-Los Angeles.
Under Gatto's Assembly Bill 2464, a judge could place a violent offender on the ban list for up to five years for a first offense, up to 10 years for a second, and up to 25 years for a third. The bill also provides sentencing enhancements to extend offenders' prison terms.
Verbal harassment or throwing beer are not covered by AB 2464, only serious felonies ranging from robbery to assault with a deadly weapon or infliction of great bodily injury committed inside or outside a stadium, while tailgating, watching, entering or leaving a stadium.
Incidents like Stow's beating would be covered by AB 2464, for example, as would the violence last year at Candlestick Park during a San Francisco 49ers-
Oakland Raiders preseason game that left one man unconscious in an upper level restroom and two men shot outside the stadium.
Gatto's measure would charge each professional sports team $10,000 to create the ban list and a rewards fund for crime witnesses. Teams would supplement the fund if it fell below $180,000.
AB 2464 would apply to the Sacramento Kings but not to the Sacramento River Cats. It would cover major-league baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer teams, beginning July 2013.
No professional league or team has taken a position yet on the bill, introduced Feb. 24. National Basketball Association spokesman Tim Frank said he is not familiar with AB 2464. Baseball and football officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Italy and England have adopted similar laws to crack down on hooligans at soccer games, Gatto said.
"Everybody who is at these ballparks are sports fans," Gatto said. "So to take away what they love, to say, 'You can't attend a game anymore,' that's a real penalty to them."
Republican lawmakers have not yet seen AB 2464, but two interviewed Monday said they were wary of its $10,000 cost to each team and the viability of requiring the state to maintain the ban list.
Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, questioned the wisdom of banning violent felons who commit their crime at a stadium but not violent felons who commit their crime elsewhere.
"I don't feel that we, with a straight face, can say that one violent felon is OK but another is not," Jeffries said.
Gatto countered that it makes no sense to penalize felons who committed their crimes decades ago, far from any stadium.
Sacramentans at MVP's sports bar Friday had mixed feelings about AB 2464.
Bill Witry, 48, said he sees no reason to create another layer of bureaucracy when violent offenders will be jailed "for a long time anyway."
Kelsey Taylor, 22, said she has worn opposing jerseys to Oakland Raiders and San Jose Sharks games and never felt threatened. She doubts that extreme violence at stadiums is common.
"I've never had a problem yet," she said.
Other sports fans applauded Gatto.
"I'm a hockey fan I like my violence on the ice," said Douglas Mower, 29.
"You have people of all ages at the games, so I think people should be held accountable," said Craig Shoemaker, 37.
John Lovell, lobbyist for the California Police Chiefs Association, called the bill thought-provoking but said he has taken no position on it, pending analysis.
"I think it's a good idea," Lovell said of a ban list. "And I think what you're going to see is the general public look at that and say, "Finally someone's addressing this.' "