Outside of cheering and booing, fans have have found their way into the highlight reels for all the wrong reasons: interfering with a ball still in play in baseball, attempting to trip a player when sitting courtside at a basketball game, or throwing flares onto the field in soccer, for example. Sometimes when fans are angry or upset they collectively throw garbage onto the court, field or rink. There are also those rare but memorable occasions when a fan is overly committed to playing the fool and wants to show their love of their team in the most disruptive and unnecessary way possible: running on during live play. This is an absolute classic disruption that makes some fans shake their head and others cheer in amusement, but it leaves all athletes, coaches, and referee’s confused as to why someone thought that was acceptable.
Fan interference is almost unavoidable, but California isn’t having it anymore. The state is attempting to put a stop to those who dare to step foot on the sacred playing grounds of professional sports. As it stands now, there is a $250 penalty for running onto the field of play or throwing objects to interfere with the game. But to some sports officials, that almost seems like a slap on the wrist. John Skinner, senior director of security and facility management for Major League Baseball, said, “In many other states, trespassing is at least a misdemeanor, and, in some cases, a felony.” New York and Illinois are two states known to have much more severe laws than California’s current ones.
California is looking to pass Senate Bill 689, the Player Safety and Security Act. Any trespassers or spectators who physically attempt to interfere with the game can be fined up to $1000 or can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $2500, and face up to 10 days in jail. Repeat offenders could be charged $5000 and may face two months in jail. The current law also only protects referees in situations with physical altercations. The new bill would fine attendees who harm players and coaches $2000 and/or up to one year in jail. The bill was coauthored by Assemblymen David Chiu, Rob Bonta, Jimmy Gomez, Brian Maienshein, and Tom Daly. Each of them come from one of the five baseball cities in California: San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Anaheim, San Diego and Los Angeles. The bill has received much support from the San Francisco Giants, other pro teams in California, and across the MLB.
For those of you interested in the history of fan interference, here are some of the most memorable moments in sports fan interference:
- San Francisco, Sept. 2016 – During a Giants vs. Dodgers game at AT&T park, a fan decided to run onto the field with a bushel of flowers and attempted to hand them to the Giants players. Buster Posey shoved the person away before the man made his way to right field. Angel Pagan extending a hand to receive the gift then swiftly tackled the man and pinned him down as security rushed over.
- The Fan Man Fight, Nov. 1993 – Nevada native James Miller paraglided into Caesar’s Palace during the Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield heavyweight title fight. When he fell to the ground fans and security began to beat him until he was knocked unconscious. Miller went to the hospital and was also hit with a $200 fine for the 21-minute delay.
- The Bartman Debacle, Oct. 2003 – In game 6 of the NLCS, the Cubs were up 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning and were close to advancing to their first World Series since 1945. Marlins’ second baseman Luis Castillo popped a foul ball into shallow left and instead of a second out, Cubs fan Steve Bartman reached over and knocked the ball away from Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. Castillo, with new life, began an 8-run rally that forced game 7 and the Cubs were eventually eliminated.
- Gunter Parshe, Apr. 1993 – Up-and-comer Monica Seles had won three straight French Open titles and back-to-back U.S. and Australian Open titles. During the Betty Barclay Cup, in a match against Magdalena Maleeva, a man by the name of Gunter Parshe ran onto the court and stabbed Seles in her shoulder blade with a boning knife. Seles took two years off before returning but never reclaimed her former dominance.
Photo: USA Today