The recent attacks in Sydney and Paris reminded the world how viciously and calculatingly terrorists exploit the vulnerable and unprepared. In both instances it was only after the loss of innocent life that highly trained police forces were able to execute (literally) on that training and regain control of a dynamic and delicate situation. To be fair, I realize that not all emergencies of this sort can be diffused without fatalities because of an infinite and unknown quantity of variables that make total preparation impossible. With that said, there is a looming threat present that invites a proactive and comprehensive approach instead of the hindsight, reactive solution.
While watching the National Championship game between Ohio State and Oregon, I wondered in the midst of the blitzing commercialism, how many of those dollars went toward protecting the packed stadium of loyal fans? I began to imagine a nightmare scenario where sudden and unexpected chaos triggered by terrorists in that rigid environment would perpetuate pandemonium leading to the unfair loss of life. I mean, if Black-Friday-crazed shoppers will trample suspected competition to death over slashed prices, its reasonable to conclude that Darwinism would be on full display if terror struck in the center of 85,689 fans all trying to hit the exits at once.
Given the significance of the event, I'm certain that security protocols were heightened, but that does little to assuage my concern because that is too vague a description of action taken. What does that mean exactly? What are the baseline protocols? Sporting events cater to fans in the thousands; an average NFL game's attendance is 67,509; NBA 17,407; MLB 30,514; and NHL is 17,455. The attacks on the World Trade Center took 2,753 innocent American lives, roughly 8.2 percent of an average pro sports event. Put another way, sporting events represent the single, greatest concentration of distracted and otherwise engaged Americans, and therefore create the greatest potential target for radical fanatics that loathe American freedom and lifestyle.
The way we do business needs to be reevaluated. This potential exposure is increased because we live in the inescapable world of subcontracting. The world was introduced to this dominant and governing business principle through former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who worked for defense contractor Booz, Allen, Hamilton. If the United States Government subcontracts the nation's most sensitive intelligence functions to third parties, it's safe to assume the protection of fans throughout all leagues, both pro and college, have adopted similar business strategies.
Shawn Turner, a spokesman for James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, declined to discuss the report. But he said Snowden's disclosures had undermined national security.
"We've been clear that these leaks have been unnecessarily and extremely damaging to the United States and the intelligence community's national security efforts," he said in an email. "As a result of these disclosures, terrorists and their support networks now have a better understanding of our collection methods and, make no mistake about it, they are taking counter measures."
Of course, there are reasons these corporations handle fan security in this manner, the first principally being the deflection of liability (protecting profits). If something tragic were to occur, the league could take full responsibility by ending the relationship with that vendor, and instituting new sweeping and comprehensive policies and procedures in an effort to prevent a reoccurrence. These would be the lines from their public playbook drafted by their high-dollar lawyers, but in my opinion this is too little too late for those families that would be forced to suffer because there is no retroactive benefit to these policy changes, only the future benefits.
Just think for a second the staggering volume of different subcontractors a fan encounters when going to a sporting event, or any event for that matter -- the parking attendant, the ticket taker, the concessions staff, security personnel, and the dozens of vendors pushing various products and services. And let's not forget that most of the state-of-the-art complexes being built today have restaurants, bars, and even nightclubs, increasing exposure to the venue in a potentially very dangerous way, virtually around the clock.
I'm not the first person to suggest an attack of this type. It was depicted in the movie Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. American sports events are susceptible to various threats, such as terrorism, natural disasters, and fan violence (Fried, 2005; Lipton, 2005). Previous research indicates that terrorism is a concern for sport venue managers (Baker, Connaughton, Zhang, & Spengler, 2007). Researchers have reported that there is a lack of security personnel training at sport stadiums relative to guarding against terrorism (Baker et. al, 2007; Cunningham, 2007; Phillips, 2006; Phillips, Hall, Marciani, & Cunningham, 2006). This is obviously not a new concern, yet it remains to be adequately addressed.
In a world where the irrefutable popularity of American sports grows globally year after year, with the NFL playing in London, the MLB in Australia, and the NBA in China, the time to examine fan security both domestically and abroad should be a primary concern, even if that means cutting into those billion-dollar profits. All those dollars begin and end with the fan.
Blayne Davis, Author of Wild Game, an international legal thriller about a sports betting hedge fund.