NFL conduct course for unruly fans

NFL Football fans fighting

As a season ticket holder to the San Diego Chargers, I tend to get my fair share of emails from the team. Most of them are emails promoting the latest merchandise or sale going on in their online store but one in particular caught my eye. It said “Chargers Fan Code of Conduct Update” in the subject line so it automatically piqued my interest. I opened the email and this is what I read.

Dear David,

As a Chargers Season Ticket Holder, our most loyal fans, the Chargers and the National Football League want you to be the first to know of additional steps being taken to create the most enjoyable and safe environment possible.

The NFL has initiated a policy that fans who violate the team’s Fan Code of Conduct may be required to complete the NFL’s four-hour online Fan Conduct Class and may be prohibited from attending future Chargers games at Qualcomm Stadium until they have completed the class and produced the Certificate of Completion.

The four-hour class focuses on, but is not limited to, fans with alcohol-related violations. The course is completely educational and meant to be a positive learning experience. It costs $75, including $20 that is donated to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). The remaining fee is paid to the course administrator.

Thank you for your continued support and cooperation in helping make Chargers games a positive experience for everyone.


Todd Poulsen
Senior Director of Ticket Sales and Services

To anyone who has gotten a speeding ticket or rolled a stop sign, this “Fan Conduct Class” sounds a lot like traffic school. I wonder if they have the stand-up comedy version of the NFL Conduct Class like many traffic schools offer?

In all seriousness, this addition to the fan code of conduct seems like a bit overkill in my opinion. The major motivating factor to complete this conduct course is that you will not be allowed back to another game unless you show your certificate of completion. Basically, the season ticket holders are the only ones affected by this new policy because the bar codes on their tickets could get flagged at the gate. But what about the drunken idiots that buy their tickets from third party vendors or just a scalper wandering around the tailgate party lots? Those fans can act like idiots and there is no way of tracking down where they got their tickets. I have never seen anyone get checked for an ID either in the security pat down or at the ticket scanning sections of the stadium gates. So how does the NFL plan to rid itself of these unsavory characters that are not season ticket holders?

Let’s face it, the NFL is not terribly concerned with the fan that drinks too much, nudes up and runs out on the field. Although that is a security and a safety concern we can all pretty much agree that the NFL is concerned with the foul language and more importantly the violent altercations that occur in the stands. Dropping numerous F-bombs and cursing out the opposing team’s best player because the home team’s quarterback just was sacked for the fifth time is annoying and a product of bad manners. Typically this behavior does not get one ejected from the stadium. Two fans engaging in fisticuffs, that’s immediate cause for an arrest and ejection. And this my fellow tailgaters is what the NFL is trying to nip in the bud.

Being a Chargers season ticket holder since 2004, I have attended my fair share of NFL games. In that time, I have seen a few fights break out in the stands. Luckily, no fights have happened in my particular section where my seats are located but I have been privy to a seeing a few fights occur one or two sections over. Of course this is my personal observation but rarely have I seen a fight break out between fans of the same team. Normally fights happen when an opposing fan gets a little too mouthy and a home team fan has had enough and it escalates into violence.

Assuming that the home team fan is a season ticket holder, what about the other combatant? Surely we are not to believe he too is a season ticket holder and attended this one game and sold off the remaining bulk of his tickets. Of course not. The opposing fan must have bought his seat online or from a scalper. By making the season ticket holder take a conduct course as his punishment is not solving the problem. The other fan gets ejected and possibly arrested but the punitive aspect of making the fans complete a code of conduct course before they can attend another game only punishes the season ticket holder. The visiting team fan can attend another game in the future by merely purchasing a ticket elsewhere.

This may backfire on the NFL and this code of conduct course requirement may embolden visiting fans to antagonize home fans even more. The threat of being ejected and possibly arrested for engaging in a fight at an NFL game was apparently not discouraging fans from fighting. Why else would have thought up and implemented this conduct course?

Look at it this way. You are a visiting fan who is complete jackass and wants to antagonize the home fans. Knowing full well that season ticket holders will get their tickets flagged and will not be able to enter the stadium for a future game unless this course is completed, do you think the home fans will be more or less inclined to engage in a possible altercation? I would compare it to a dog fight where one dog can harass the other one while the original dog is on a leash. Now NFL stadiums may be full of visiting fans who feel they can mouth off knowing the season ticket holders may not solve the problems on their own before calling the ushers.

Let me be clear, I am not in favor of fights in the stands and violence at football games. It just seems a bit unfair that the fans who are typically not the ones that start these altercations are the ones who are getting the additional punishment. I am not suggesting mob rule and that the home team fans should “protect their turf” but there is something to be said about not giving the visiting team’s fans more of an incentive to mouth off.

There has to be a better way but unfortunately the NFL has already implemented this policy and it looks as though it is here to stay.