Online education isn’t just transforming traditional schools — it’s infiltrating the world of sports, too.
The National Football League isn’t kidding about the behavior standards it sets for spectators who attend football games. Starting this season, all fans ejected from a stadium during a game will be required to complete a four-hour online class on appropriate behavior before being allowed to return. Several teams already enforced this policy at their own home games, but this is the first year when every member of the league decided to adopt the practice.
The course was designed by psychotherapist Dr. Ari Novick working in partnership with the MetLife Stadium security director Daniel DeLorenzi. The topics covered include alcohol abuse, anger management, and inappropriate behavior.
“For decades, some fans have believed that when they put on the jersey of their favorite player on their favorite team and they enter a stadium, they can behave any way they want,” Novick said. “This program was designed to say to people, ‘We want you to have fun when you come to a game, but you have to understand that your actions can affect people and there are rules to abide by.’
The course is only a part of an overarching spectator-management policy called the NFL Fan Code of Conduct first implemented in 2008. Initially, those who were found to be belligerent during games or other spectator events were threatened with revocation of future ticket privileges. Novick said that offering ejected fans an opportunity to reform would serve both the league and its fanbase better in the long run.
Once a spectator is ejected, the league dispatches a letter asking them to apologize to the team, and offers an opportunity to enroll in the course. Failure to meet the two requirements could result in an arrest and a trespassing charge if the person ejected tries to return to any stadium property owned by the league.
Not only do fans have to take the course if they want to come back to the stadium, they have to pay for it, too. Costs vary by team. The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons charge the least at $50, while the New England Patriots charge a league-high $100. When a fan completes the course, Novick’s company forwards that information to the club.
Skeptics might wonder how teams are going to keep track of ejected fans from week to week. Ray DiNunzio, the NFL’s director of strategic security, told ESPN the monitoring will vary by team but could at some point involve facial recognition technology.
Although nearly 7,000 NFL fans are ejected yearly, not every team applies the same policy when deciding when someone needs to be removed. The Oakland Raiders, for example, have one of the strictest policies in the league when it comes to smoking in the stadium, and they eject up to 300 people every year for lighting up.