Bill expected to corral rowdy fans | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bill expected to corral rowdy fans

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

A bill introduced in the California Assembly Tuesday would make it a crime to interfere with a professional sporting event or athlete, and it’s sure to cause controversy in the turbulent world of spectator sports.

What would the notorious “soccer hooligans” have to say about AB245, introduced by Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn?

If the bill is passed by the Assembly, resulting law would make it a crime to “touch any player with the intent of interfering or distracting play,” “throw objects in the field of play with the intent to interfere or distract a player,” or “throw objects at players or attendees before, during or immediately after a sporting event, including on or near the field of play, locker rooms, dugouts, bleachers, parking or concession areas.”

A violation of AB245 would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The uppity folks who make up the infamous Dawg Pound in Cleveland must be rolling in their bleachers, not to mention our local Raider Nation, known for its own sometimes-disagreeable nature.

“Players and coaches deserve to have a safe environment to play in,” said Cohn, a democrat from Saratoga who chairs the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee and authored the bill. “Professional sporting events should be enjoyable for all involved and inappropriate behavior by fans should not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

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According to Cohn’s media director, Erika Weaver-Taylor, the bill was prompted in part by last year’s Chicago White Sox baseball game in which a father and son dashed out onto the field and attacked a first-base coach, as well as the general melee sometimes produced by Oakland Raiders fans who can be “somewhat unruly at times.”

“I don’t think it was any one particular event,” said Weaver-Taylor. “It just seems to make plain common sense.”

Weaver-Taylor said only two other states have similar laws: Oklahoma and New Mexico. Boxing is the only professional sport with a current law governing fan behavior.

She said the bill will first be heard in committee “in the next couple of weeks”, and if it passes there it will be heard by the full California Assembly, where it needs a simple majority of 41 votes to pass.

“Hopefully that will happen in the next few months,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to have such a law, but such is the case.”

South Tahoe High School boys’ basketball coach Derek Allister has mixed feelings about the proposed law. Although it deals solely with professional sporting events, he believes any such law risks removing the entertainment value of the game. Allister was formerly head basketball coach for NCAA Division 1 Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and has seen his share of rowdy fan behavior.

“I would have mixed feelings with that because some of the best games I’ve ever been to would be where fans covered the floor with toilet paper,” Allister said. “Certainly there is a line I don’t want to ever see crossed, but how would you determine what is a misdemeanor and what is not? Certainly you can’t be throwing coins out at people. Anything like that is just crazy.”

Allister noted that many sports have means of addressing poor behavior by fans, including awarding technical fouls to the opposing team in basketball.

“I would be skeptical of something like that,” he added. “I think the intent is good, but you get to the point of having too many regulations and now you have to go to the game and sit there on your hands. There still needs to be an entertainment aspect to the game.”

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