On Tuesday, a federal appeals court overturned an earlier decision banning patdown searches of all fans before Buccaneers home games. Beginning this August, when NFL preseason games are scheduled to start, every fan entering Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will be subject to patdown searches conducted by the Tampa Sports Authority.
The Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) is the government agency that runs Raymond James Stadium. TSA requested that the case be transferred to a federal court after a Florida State court and Appeals Court ruled that the patdowns were in violation of the Constitutional rights of fans.
Patdowns become mandatory at all NFL games at the beginning of the 2005 NFL season. The NFL started the practice in order to help protect their fans against possible terrorist attacks. The searches were stopped at Raymond James stadium in November of 2005.
Gordon Johnson, a Bucs fan and season ticket holder since 2001, was the originator of the lawsuit that got rid of the patdown searches. Johnson was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union in October of 2005 in filing the lawsuit. They claimed in the suit that the patdowns were a violation of an individuals fourth amendment rights. There have been similar lawsuits brought in Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Tampa was the only city where the lawsuit was successful and patdowns were banned.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th United States circuit court is detailed in an article in the St Petersburg times. The judges rules that Johnson gave up his right to challenge the searches when he consented to them. Johnson had been searched three times before prior to attending Buccaneer home games before the practice was stopped. The ruling concluded that Johnson, as well as other fans, knew that they were going to be subject to searches before they entered the stadium for Bucs games. Knowing this information, in the judge’s opinion, was considered voluntarily submitting to the search.
The next course for Johnson if he decided to pursue the lawsuit is to have all twelve judges who sit on the 11th circuit court to review the case or appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
The NFL is pleased with the decision and expressed their approval in a prepared statement made by NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy and quoted online by the St. Petersburg Times. “Patdowns are an important part of our comprehensive security procedures, including secure facility perimeters and bags search. These limited, consensual security screens are designed to enhance the protection of our fans.”
As for now the searches are schedule to begin with the start the football season. Whether or not they continue and for how long is a decision that may not yet have been determined. The NFL and TSA wait to see if Gordon Johnson and the American Civil Liberties Unions will decide to take the case further.
Weimar, Carrie. Got Bucs tickets? Get a free patdown. June 27, 2007. St. Petersburg Times. http://www.sptimes.com/2007/06/27/Hillsborough/Got_Bucs_tickets_Get_.shtml. Retrieved June 27, 2007.