Gordon Johnston had a choice: Put up with annoying pat-down searches at the entrance to Raymond James stadium, or miss the live football games he bought season tickets to. He couldn’t make up his mind, so he sued.
According to the Associated Press, after attending three football games – without giving verbal consent to the searches that occurred anyway – Johnston, a teacher at Tampa Bay Technical High School, and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) under the pretense that the authority didn’t have the right to physically search him before admittance to football games. Two courts, one state and one federal, have agreed with Johnston, with both judges issuing injunctions that ban the pat-downs at Raymond James.
John Goldsmith, Johnston’s attorney, contends that because Raymond James Stadium and the TSA are publicly owned – and because tax dollars help pay for the searches while uniformed police officers stand by to arrest anyone if contraband is found – the pat-down searches equate to “mass random searches,” which are unconstitutional.
Goldsmith argued, “There has to be some concrete or real danger. There is no danger at NFL stadiums that is not at shopping malls or restaurants.” Since airports and restaurants don’t physically pat down passengers and patrons unless a metal detector goes off, physical pat-downs at sports stadiums could be judged to be unnecessary and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cohn, who is representing the sports authority, begs to differ.
“There’s no constitutional right to watch a football game live,” Cohn told the AP. He said Johnston knew of the policy beforehand and presented himself at the game anyway. He added that the reverse side of every ticket explains that tickets are revocable for any reason.
Cohn should merely say “We won’t do pat-down searches anymore.”
After all, it’s not as if there aren’t other security measures available to the sports authority. When the Super Bowl was held in San Diego in 2003, the St. Petersburg Times reported Qualcomm Stadium instituted a seven-mile no-fly zone, barricades, camera surveillance within and without, prohibitions on tailgating and 90 metal detectors.
Raymond James should institute metal detectors. In fact, it was at Raymond James that authorities launched “their most high-profile installation of face-recognition technology in January (2001) … where police scanned the crowd for criminals or terrorists at Super Bowl XXXV,” according to CNET.
Given technology like that, it seems futile for the TSA to make a protracted fight in defense of simple pat-down searches. There are, after all, more effective technologies available. They should use them.