Fans should stand and cheer
By By Kim West
Several years ago school spirit was hard to find at the University of North Alabama football games. But now there's lively pre-game tailgating, a standing-room only crowd in the student section and a filled home side at Florence's Braly Stadium. There has been a concerted effort by student groups, city and school officials and the UNA athletic department to encourage fan support at home football games.
But something happened at the homecoming game last Saturday that doesn't make sense – a UNA fan was handcuffed and escorted out of the stadium like a criminal in front of several thousand people, including a group of high school kids – potential UNA students – in his group.
My friends and I were sitting in front of the group, which had been standing and cheering since kickoff. They weren't acting intoxicated, using profanity, throwing objects or ringing cowbells. They were just a group of spirited out-of-town fans that drove all the way from Jasper to cheer for the Lions, and that's exactly what they did, at least until UNA Public Safety came into the picture.
Apparently, these fans were blocking the view for some of the seated fans sitting directly behind them, because midway through the second quarter, a couple of Public Safety officers approached the group. The officers told them that people couldn't see the game and asked the group to sit down.
The lead officer addressed the adult male in the group, who asked why he should sit down at a football game. He also asked why the people who couldn't see didn't move. (There were plenty of other places to sit nearby.) As the officer and the man discussed this, several other officers encircled the group. After the officers checked the man's ticket, which was an appropriate general admission ticket, he was issued an ultimatum: Sit down or leave the stadium.
At this point, the man stuck his fists out and said, "What are you going to do – arrest me?" Now, I don't know if he was actually booked at the city jail, but he was immediately turned around and cuffed behind his back, and then escorted out of the stadium.
My friends and I watched this incident along with everyone else in that section of the stands, and we couldn't understand why that happened. There is a lot of boorish fan behavior at sporting events, but this man and his group didn't do anything other than annoy people who were too lazy to stand and cheer or move to another part of the bleachers, where they could have continued to sit and clap periodically.
I appreciate Public Safety for providing fans with a safe environment at UNA football games, but I think the officers overreacted.
What that man and his group were doing isn't a crime, and wasn't a threat to stadium security. It's not against policy to get on another person's nerves at a football game. If that were true, then those obnoxious cowbells and noisemakers would be banned at football games. Like the man said, what's wrong with standing and cheering at football game?