Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Oct 2005

No More Pat-Downs in Tampa

A high school civics teacher represented by the American Civil Liberties Union has successfully sued to force the Tampa Bay Bucs to stop giving pat-downs to fans as they enter the stadium. The NFL said in a statement it was "disappointed" by the decision, but hadn't had a chance to review the court's opinion.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 27 Oct 2005

50 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2005, 1:49am by Dennis


by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:01pm

Very interesting. I don't get the NFL's position, though. How can pat-downs at other stadiums not be affected, unless by that they mean "until a similar suit is filed on behalf of fans at other stadiums"? Didn't the very same article mention that the Bucs are doing it because the NFL asked everyone to?

by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:14pm

I've never seen a pat down going into a stadium. Bag searches yes, but a pat down?

by Russell Levine :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:32pm

Interestingly, I've been patted dodwn on my way into NBA games, but never NFL or NHL.

by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:40pm

Re: #1, the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures (like basically all constitutional rights) applies only with respect to "state actors." Presumably the Tampa Sports Authority is state owned and operated. This ruling would not apply to privately owned and operated stadiums. But I'm not sure that's what the NFL is talking about. I would think the Bucs, as a contractual matter, could condition the sale of their tickets on the buyer consenting to a search. That would seem to solve the problem.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:44pm

#1: Different jurisdictions, different judges. Judges circuits covering other NFL cities may not agree with this court's ruling, since this holding is just persuasive and not binding to them. The NFL probably thinks that it wouldn't be enough, and that other courts wouldn't follow suit, so that's what they mean by that. Maybe there's more to it, I don't know. I can't find the opinion anywhere and the article doesn't give a cite.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:50pm

Note: Reading the article would help, Fnor. This is an injunction, not an opinion. The judge simply thought that the chance of the plaintiff winning was enough that the practice should stop until it's all sorted out.

#4: It is true that the 4th amendment only applies to state actors, but there are plenty of rights that are gauranteed from any interference, and even a couple tort remedies. And yes, posting a contract for the people to agree to would solve the problem. They could just print it on the back of the ticket and agreement would be inferred. Pretty sure Florida works that way, at least.

by Joey (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:00pm

"Why do I need to lose my rights to go to the game?" he said. "I'd say it's humiliating. If I did that to my students, do you know what would happen to me?"

Schools across the country routinely search students lockers and property. Does he have a problem with that, as well, or is it just when it inconveniences him?

The ACLU also recently brought suit against NYC for doing random pat-downs on the subway during one of the terror scares. Hearing one of their reps on the radio trying to explain how the subway was different than getting on an airplane was simply bizarre. For anyone interested, the reasoning was that the train is cheaper and used by more people so the searches infringe on more people's rights. Also, he said it mattered that there are more subway stations than airports, since that makes the train more publicly accessible, supposedly.

by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:13pm

I know I, for one, am very concerned that terrorists could hijack a subway train and crash it into a building.

by Joey (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:57pm

Not sure if you're being hostile (for what reason, I have no idea) or just making a horribly bad joke, MDS.

The potential to kill thousands in a subway attack, where trains carry hundreds of passengers and thousands of other commuters could be trapped underground in the stations isn't a joke. Or do you think the families would rest easier because their loved ones died during the commute rather than in an office building?

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:25pm

I dunno, I thought it was kinda funny.
No one's ever going to win an argument balancing liberties, security and convenience. Yes, convenience is important, too. It's all a negative-sum game, though, and something's going to lose. I think the trick is to not get either paranoid or full of ourselves along the way.
That said, aren't there no politics in football?

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:43pm

#9 is right. Terrorism is no laughing matter.

Unless you're terrorizing a clown!

by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:55pm

Joey, I ride the subway every day. Trust me, I don't want it to be the target of a terrorist attack. I also don't want my 30-minute commute to become a 60-minute commute because we're all going through metal detectors. You didn't seem to see any distinction between a plane and a train; I thought the distinction was rather obvious and tried to use humor to explain it. It wasn't an attack on you. I'm glad Fnor liked it.

by KronicFatigue (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:56pm

I didn't read the specific ALCU comments regarding planes vs. subways, but here is my take...

Allowing for searches on planes is the exception and not the rule. Generally, the right to privacy trumps the right to security. However, in this limited circumstance, the court has carved out a little area where they allow searches and pat downs. Planes are inheritenly dangerous and many things can happen once in the air.

Subways are not like that. Furthermore, many people NEED to use subways for their commute. There is no alternative. Thus, there is less consent involved. You'd be forcing people to submit to these invasions of privacy.

At what point does it stop? Do we submit all cars to random searches? people on the street? People might be making bombs in their homes, so i guess we should be allowed to search them as well w/o any warrants.

by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:05am

I thought I read in an earlier article that this case was based on the state constitution, not the federal.

by andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:41am

Do they do "Pat downs" at Foxboro?

by Joey (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:42am

More people drive than use trains, the bus, or planes. Yet, random stops and searches of people's bodies for alcohol have been declared legal by the courts because it is a public safety issue. But a drunk driver poses a miniscule threat to public safety as opposed to a terrorist on any form of mass transportation. From a purely legal standpoint, I don't see how one can be okay and the other not.

BTW, Kronic should have been on the radio show I was listening to, because he is 50 times more eloquent than the ACLU rep was. But, under the Patriot Act, they basically already can search your home without a warrant. (Actually, I believe there's still a warrant of some sort but they essentially get it with no questions asked.) And, they can do the search without ever telling you about it; say, while you're away at work. Kind of scary.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:13am

Don't make me have Peter Gammons put on a dress and talk about politics and football, darn it.
For one, while the patriot act is a huge problem and an invitation for abuse, there are warrants, they're just issued secretly in a streamlined proceedure to allow for information to be kept classified. You can also get an ex post facto warrant if you didn't have time and it was later found that you were justified. If you weren't, then you're in trouble. These are all issued by federal judges, who definitely aren't monkeys.
Anyway, the pat-down thing wouldn't really be the same bird as road traps for alcohol. For one, there's rarely a search involved, it's usually a judgment check on the officer's part on whether or not the person is drunk to establish reason to search. So not everyone is actually searched. Plus, the rate of people carrying bombs onto trains is much lower than that of people driving drunk, so a random check is rather ineffectual, so they would have to check everyone, which is a completely different can of worms than a random check. Plus, like I said, there's the inconvenience issue.
I could probably go on and on. The point is that just because two things facially looks similar doesn't mean that they're legally similar.

by Joey (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:49am

"The point is that just because two things facially looks similar doesn’t mean that they’re legally similar."

No doubt, but the arguments I make are essentially the same ones made by the state of New York in the subway case, so I'm not that far out in left (right?) field.
The law evolves all the time. It wasn't too many years back that sobriety checkpoints were viewed by many to be unconstitutional. Now, it has been established they are legal. (But, that could change tomorrow.)

My final point will be the irony I see in the ACLU's argument in the subway case. They have taken the position that the number of people inconvenienced by these searches is of high relevance. If you are strict defender of individual civil liberties, which is what the Constitution gurantees, you would be just as worried about one person being hassled as many. Now, this may just be a legal tactic that doesn't reflect the ACLU's core beliefs, but I find it interesting, nonetheless.

by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 3:18am

But a drunk driver poses a miniscule threat to public safety as opposed to a terrorist on any form of mass transportation.

Which do you think kills more Americans each year... drunk driving or terrorism?

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 6:54am

Folks, be afraid of the subway scenario. You may have read that in the London in July of this year 3 terrorists blew themselves up on the tube (subway). They killed 50+ people, and we were fortunate it wasn't more. You don't have to crash things in to buildings to kill people.

On this side of the pond, you have your bag search and a 'pat down' any time you go to an spoting event, concert or trade show. I have to say, I don't feel as though my rights have been violated. If some lunatic got explosives or guns in and used them, then I'd definitely feel wronged.

If potentially, 'pat-downs save lives, whats the big deal?

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 6:56am

I would like to apologise for my typing in that last post. It reads abysmally.

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 8:54am

All in all, this guy seems like a strict conservative who wanted to show his students that you should practice what you preach. I do, however, think he doth protesth a bit much. I have been to numerous concerts (OZZFest, Sounds of the Underground, etc) where I have been patted down and was unable to carry certain harmless items in, and this was before 9/11.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:08am

Re #11: What if you're terrorized by a clown?

by Jeffo (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:11am

Just a point, I'm a Giants season ticket holder, and they have been doing pat-downs since 9/11. It takes maybe an extra 3-5 minutes to get into the game, so we just start our tailgating earlier and I've always been in my seat before kickoff. I am in no way offended by the search (though I would rather get felt up by the Coors Light Twins - can't always get what we want...).

by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:32am

Who's doing the pat down? What happens if they find something? Are they trained to handle the situation or are they just rent-a-cops going through the motions?

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:40am

Joey and Michael:

50,000 Americans die on the highways every year, while we have yet to have a single death ever in subway terrorism, or at an NFL game.

Perhaps we as a country should be focusing our energies elsewhere than pat-downs on the NYC Subway and in at Buccaneers games.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:46am

James, London:

Pat-downs and the like are nothing more than feel-good exercises to make it appear that "we" are doing "something".

All that "security" in London didn't stop the mad train bombers, just like all our airport "security" didn't stop the 9/11 Massacre.

If someone is determined to kill people they will find a way. Want to kill people at a sporting event but are intimidated by a pat-down? Hey, why not go the route of mortar fire. Surely a terrorist who can build bombs in back-packs can also build a mortar and fire rockets into a crowded stadium. In fact, this happened in Lebanon at a race track.

Pat-downs and bag checks make everyone feel good, but they accomplish nothing.

by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:47am

#20, it's a US cultural thing. Generally, Americans are much less likely to prefer an infringment on their personal rights for the common good. (Insert air quotes where necessary :)
The harm is that me, and 90,000 of my closest friends, are being inconvenienced due to the possibility that person 90,002 is gonna do something silly. For some, that's enough reason to do it. For others, it isn't.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:48am

More people drive than use trains, the bus, or planes. Yet, random stops and searches of people’s bodies for alcohol have been declared legal by the courts because it is a public safety issue. But a drunk driver poses a miniscule threat to public safety as opposed to a terrorist on any form of mass transportation. From a purely legal standpoint, I don’t see how one can be okay and the other not.

It's an area of Constitutional law that hasn't fully been clarified. The key case is State of Michigan Police vs. Sitz (1990). In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that, although a 'seizure,' sobriety checkpoints were not unreasonable as long as they were effective and minimally intrusive.

A Pat-down or bag search, on the other hand, is more intrusive than stopping one's car for a moment, so one would expect the hurdle to be greater in that case.

Even airports don't pat everyone down.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:58am

Generally, Americans are much less likely to prefer an infringment on their personal rights for the common good.

although many Americans are bravely willing to forgo other people's rights for their own safety

(I know I am)

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:08am


The London police have been dealing with the IRA and their like for decades; they might have a few more ideas of what they are up against than we do.

And anyone who rides the Chicago "L" (as I assume Michael does) knows the hazards of mass transit very well since 7/07. Whether such pat downs serve more as a deterrent or as a public reassurance is open to debate, but this liberal sees very little problem with either purpose.

Is there any data out there about what the Bucs have confiscated in these searches? That would at least give some indication of how effective these searches are.

by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:28am

The patdowns at the Linc are pathetic -- last week, they weren't even checking pants pockets. It seems to be much more about preventing fans from bringing in their own water bottles and beverages than it is about "security".

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:39am

Guys, to clarify.

There are no 'pat downs' on the London Ungerground. 3 million journeys every day make that impossible. 'Pat downs' didn't stop 7/7 because they weren't used. Would they have made a difference? Who knows? My guess is that they would have stopped this M.O, but if you're desparate to kill on a mass transit sytem you'll find a way.

For a mass transit sytem the widespread use of 'pat downs' is impractical. However, for sporting events, they can be useful.

It is certainly concieveable that group of individuals get superbowl tickets and plan to turn it into a bloodbath by turning their bags into nail bombs. Snipers, SWAT teams and the military cannot act on that until after the event. A bag search stops it cold, or more likely deters it. If you can't get that type of weapon in, why bother?

This type of security is not just a defence against terrorists. It also stops common or garden crowd violence escalating, by preventing weapons being brought into gigs, games, etc. Remember the basketball game where the players and crowd started to fight? That would have been really good fun if some genius had knifed a player.

Again, to have someone check the contents of your bag, and pat you down, (we're not talking about an internal body search here) doesn't seem like a big deal, especially when set against the possible alternatives. It takes less than two minutes. What's the drama?

by Parker (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:49am


I think part of the drama is ever present and overused 'slippery slope' arguement which seems to enter into every debate and is often used by both sides.

No, a pat down is not a full body cavity search. But my God, James, if we let them pat us down today, we'll all be bending over tomorrow!

See how easy that is?

by David S. (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:59pm

I'm pretty sure the patdowns are the number one reason for the Raiders never selling out. Maybe now I'll get to see home games on TV.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:08pm

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

--Some guy named Ben Franklin

Those who are saying that this measure is a feel-good thing are 100% correct. London has the most surveillance in the world, yet the bombs went off. People's civil liberties are drastically restricted in Israel and other areas in the Middle East, yet people get blown up and shot all of the time there.

Am I saying that we should be complacent? No. But I do fee that we need to take Mr. Franklin's words to heart.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:16pm

The problem I have with pat downs and searches is that they don't accomplish anything other than giving people a false sense of security, like others have said. Plus a lot of the policies are just stupid. The Colorado Rockies used to have a rule (they might still have it, I'm not sure) that you couldn't bring a backpack in. You could bring in a bag that was the same size and shape and only had one strap, but if it had two straps you couldn't bring it in. It was totally idiotic.

I also agree with #30 - it's truly sad how many Americans are willing to give up their rights - and even worse, other people's rights - just to have a false sense of security. Too many people have died protecting these rights to just piss them away.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:41pm

One thing that seems to have been overlooked is that the ticket-holder in question did not consent to a search, and when he asked for a refund was refused it. Consent is needed for this type of search, even implied consent (which is assumed at airports). There was no implied consent here.

Also, I think a no-bag policy makes more sense than patting everyone down. Or perhaps pat-down only those with bags. That way people get a choice.

by Parker (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:50pm

Were this guys civil rights really being violated? Doesn't he have the option of not going into the stadium?

I know that's the simpleminded solution, but in some ways it seems to fit. I guess my thought is that if you put the information on the ticket that you will be searched and make it part of the agreement when you buy the ticket, doesn't this all just go away and the pat downs resume?

I'm not a lawyer. I've been enjoying reading this but I think the lines between what a private entity can do and what the government can do are being blurred here.

When I go to Best Buy there is a dude at the exit that sometimes looks in my bag and at my receipt. I hate it when he does it, but I also know that it might happen and can take my money elsewhere. It's my choice.

Is there something about the Bucs stadium that makes it different? Is it the physical contact? I think I am missing something.

by Parker (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:52pm

RE: 38
Ahh, consent. If the law requires consent then it sounds like this guy has a point.

by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 5:05pm

lib·er·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (lbr-t)
n. pl. lib·er·ties

The condition of being free from restriction or control.
The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor. See Synonyms at freedom.
Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control.
A right or immunity to engage in certain actions without control or interference: the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention. Often used in the plural.
A statement, attitude, or action not warranted by conditions or actualities: a historical novel that takes liberties with chronology.
An unwarranted risk; a chance: took foolish liberties on the ski slopes.
A period, usually short, during which a sailor is authorized to go ashore.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 5:28pm

I don't have any problems with bag checks. I don't mind lifting my jacket and turning around (as I've done at most of the Pacers games I've attended recently). I object to being patted down.

What exactly do they expect to find on me that requires touching me, and why is it more dangerous for me to possess it inside the arena than outside the arena? Do they really believe that a terrorist who is part of a plan to do something at a sporting event will be carrying something small and unobtrusive that can only be found through contact?

by zach (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 6:54pm

Yet, random stops and searches of people’s bodies for alcohol have been declared legal by the courts because it is a public safety issue.

which courts? last i checked you could refuse a breathalyer (sp?) or similar test. of course, you will almost certainly be brought into the station and might have your license suspended, but you don't have to let them search anything.

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 7:08pm

"What exactly do they expect to find on me that requires touching me, and why is it more dangerous for me to possess it inside the arena than outside the arena?"

Er, Guns, Knives, or a Semtex Waistcoat perhaps.

The whole "searches are only for show" is unfair. While there is undoubtedly a PR element to it (and is that a bad thing?), I believe it is effective, although proving a negative is impossible.

I like the Ben Franklin quote, and on the whole agree with it. However, I still don't see what the big deal with a 'pat-down' is. I accept the 'thin end of the wedge argument', but in thta case, what of Guantanemo Bay?

I think this is something that is viewed very differently on this side of the Atlantic.

by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 7:49pm

I am glad you are starting to understand, James. We Yankees take our freedoms very seriously.

by Conrad (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 9:54pm

If American laws are such that public-owned properties can't conduct patdowns but privately owned properties can, then there'll always be holes and patdowns will be effective neither as preventative measures nor as PR/deterrants. Terrorists will avoid the Bucs and the Packers and hit the Cowboys instead. We might as well drop the patdowns altogether if we can only provide security for some.

#30, how easily you conflate "bravery" and "fear of something that probably won't happen." I always thought bravery had more to do with accepting personal risk to make a point.

by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2005 - 3:03pm

The Steelers do pat downs at every home game. And I for one hope they continue. I have nothing to hide and for some reason it does make me feel a little safer when i'm at the game. I don't know why. But it does.

It doesn't really take any longer to get into the stadium either. It's always full for kickoff and ready to rock. And nobody really complains about it either.

And how can the government stop the Bucs from doing these pat downs? If you don't like what the Bucs do in their stadium you don't have to go. It's not a right to go to a football game.

by Led (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2005 - 10:28pm

Nothing against good ole Ben Franklin, but surely you see that saying is a piece of rhetoric and not an argument. What, pray tell, is an "essential liberty"? Presumably a liberty you wouldn't give up for a little temporary safety, which makes the whole thing circular....

"Those who refuse to give up a trivial liberty to protect the public safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

- Led (See, I can beg the question too!)

Consistent with the FO philosophy, anybody know of objective data on the issue of whether pat downs decrease the incidence of violence? In my opinion, if it has a positive effect, it's worth it. If it doesn't, it's not worth it.

by Israel (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2005 - 7:11am

Good for Led (#48) - I was going to say quite the same thing.

Tom Kelso (#31) is wrong when he writes Is there any data out there about what the Bucs have confiscated in these searches? That would at least give some indication of how effective these searches are. Confiscation is not the issue. The effectiveness is measured by an unknown - what have baddies not brought with them because they knew there were inspections.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:49am

Re #49: The effectiveness is measured by an unknown - what have baddies not brought with them because they knew there were inspections.

I agree the effectiveness is measured by an unknown, but it's another unknown that is more important: what people have brought in that wasn't caught by the patdowns. We have no way of knowing what kind of weapons - knives, guns, whatever else - have gotten past the patdowns.