Sports Hype and Security

When I was a kid, my parents took my brothers and me to Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. To be honest, security never entered my mind.

I was, after all, a kid, and I was there to see my favorite Dodgers. Years later, security is top of mind for me no matter where I go. Maybe it’s a product of my chosen profession, but I look for and examine security equipment no matter where I am; whether I’m at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, the airport or the grocery store.

I still like sports though, and recently stadium officials were warned that sports stadiums could be a prime target for terrorists. Most sports officials responded in a rather low-key manner, saying that they had already boosted precautions. The latest alerts given by federal officials didn’t seem to cause alarm.

Even though federal officials knew of no specific plans or plots against stadiums or other types of entertainment venues, stadium owners can’t be too safe these days, especially in light of ongoing terror investigations in New York, Denver and Dallas.

Greg Aiello, National Football League spokesman, said the NFL is aware of the government memos, as well as the fact that there is no information specific to any sports stadium. Aiello also said there are already high levels of stadium security in each stadium, which will continue to be maintained at every NFL game.

Security receives constant attention in other professional venues. As you can well imagine, after Sept. 11, security among most professional sports franchises has increased.

“Major League Baseball utilizes heightened security procedures at all ballparks as a matter of practice and will continue to do so,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “Fan security always has been, and always will be, our most important priority.”

The National Hockey League said security is a collaborative effort; they work closely with local arenas and law enforcement agencies to create a safe, secure environment at all times.

National Basketball Association officials said, like most leagues, security plans evolve.

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said teams and arenas regularly review their security plans and update as necessary.

Why are stadiums such an attractive target? Apparently a bulletin in an al-Qaeda training manual lists them worthy of “blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality and sin ... and attacking vital economic centers.”

I don’t believe Americans give much thought to the security of stadiums or places of entertainment. We trust that security officials are doing their job; however, James A. McGee, an instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, said these venues are a “very, very, very likely target” for terrorists.

More than eight years since the terror attacks of 9/11, coupled with a slowdown in the economy, makes people hesitant to put security first. Decisions to save money may actually lessen security.

Now is not the time to think twice about security. Terrorists and criminals have one goal—and that is to take from you those things that you treasure the most. Americans must be as vigilant today as we were Sept. 12, 2001. Now, more than ever.

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