Dear Mr. Goodell and Mr. & Mrs. York,
I have been a lifelong NFL football fan, and consider myself extremely blessed to have grown up outside of Pittsburgh during the great Steelers teams of the 70s. The emotional connection and commitment I have to the NFL and to all things Steelers is still very high–seeing the old Coca-Cola commercial featuring Mean Joe Green or hearing old radio takes from Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope still bring tears to my eyes.
I now live outside of San Francisco and am the father of two young boys, 8 and 10. I am passing on my passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and am developing two of your younger fans of the 49ers and the NFL more broadly. Its fun for us, and its great to see the strong team and winning tradition of the 9ers returning.
As a lifelong NFL fan and as a father of two, I’m writing to you today to express my extreme disappointment at terrible behavior and language of fans attending your games. I am disappointed that as the NFL Commissioner and as the Owners of my local NFL franchise that fan behavior is not something that is a higher priority to you.
Here has been my experience attending 49ers games with my children. I’ve been to 3 with them, most recently this past Sunday, which was representative of the others…
My kids and I enjoy tail gating before the game. It’s always festive and a lot of fun. We arrive early, we setup a charcoal grill, we cook, eat and throw a football around. This is the highlight of our experience.
We then head into the stadium, find our seats and sit down to watch the game. We are there early, and the stands aren’t yet full. As kickoff approaches, the seats around, in front, and behind us all start to fill. Today, we have a large group of guys sitting behind us, clearly all buddies, having a couple beers while they watch the game.
Once the game starts is when the trouble starts. F-bombs galore from the guys behind. Every. Single. Play. “Run the Fucking Ball.” “Sack the m-fucking quarterback.” “Hit that fucker.” Every down.
With a bunch of guys drinking as much as they are and as feisty as they are, you really aren’t in a great space to ask them to watch their language.
I get it. I get the tailgating and the drinking are a part of the fan experience. I get that this is modern day gladiator stuff that drives more belligerent fans than you’d have at an MLB game. But really, does it need to be so profane and so belligerent that families shouldn’t take their kids? It shouldn’t be this way.
Here are some basic ideas that I think the NFL Commissioner and the SF 49ers could take that wouldn’t cost much that would improve dramatically the viewer experience.
A public service video announcement from your stars, past and present. When I go to a movie theater, the theater always shows a 30 second trailer reminding movie goers to turn off their mobile phones and not text during the movie. The NFL should follow that lead. For the 49ers, get Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Vernon Davis on the video screen with a recording that says, “Hi Fans, Enjoy the game and have fun! But please remember that there are other fans here. Some are much younger and some are much older. Have a blast, but please keep you conduct appropriate for all ages.”
Have ushers walk up and down aisles before the kickoff saying hello to fans, and in particular the kids. The ushers aren’t huge authority figures, but they are human beings. I think if they walked up their section when traffic was light they could start saying hello to people. Say hi to kids. Remind the beer drinkers to watch their language around the kids.
As needed, provide a warning and kick people out. I believe strongly that the NFL viewing experience should be age appropriate for anyone. It currently isn’t. Ushers or others should be empowered to warn fans if their behavior is too out of line. And if behavior isn’t curbed, fans should be booted out.
Unless and until the NFL and the SF 49ers take fan behavior more seriously, the Jamison boys will be watching our football from home.