Yankees Security Team in the Rogers Centre: Hired Goons or Snitches?

Police officers and police dogs are on patrol outside Yankee stadium. - Elsa

Last Friday, Justin Jackson (a Blue Jays fan, not the Blue Jays' farmhand) was at the Rogers Centre Friday evening when two members of the Yankees staff allegedly got some Blue Jays fans thrown out of the stadium for heckling the Yankees bullpen. He detailed his experience in a blog post on Sportto Network. Jackson alleges that two fans who were picked out by the Yankees security detail were "chirping and heckling" before members of the Toronto Police came to "violently" arrest one of them. And when Jackson started a "Yankees suck" chant, the so-called "hired goons" supposedly took a photo of him and threatened to have him removed from the stadium as well.

The Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy followed up on the post and spoke with Jackson as well as the Yankees' security guards and the Toronto Police. One of the Yankees' travelling guards, Mike Kafalas, told the Star that it was not only a heckling problem, but that peanuts and other items were being thrown at the Yankees bullpen. A Blue Jays usher also wrote on an incident report that the men who were ejected were throwing peanuts, although Kennedy's piece did not specify whether the report contained information about their target. However, Jackson insisted that nothing was thrown at the bullpen.

Now, we have two versions of the story, leading to some questions. Could Jackson have just not paid attention when the men were throwing the items (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he is not lying)? Could an usher have been intimidated by a man with a Yankees security badge to write a falsehood in the incident report? Why was one of the men allegedly "violently arrested"? Do any other teams send out security details to monitor the stands in Toronto?

As I don't know what actually happened, I would say that I'd be quite surprised to find out that officers of the Toronto Police would arrest someone at the Rogers Centre for simple "chirping and heckling," as Justin Jackson claimed. Kennedy spoke with a member of Toronto Police who explained that decisions to eject fans are made by Rogers Centre security, and Police are only there to facilitate--ie. be "muscle."--meaning that those men might have just been ejected rather than arrested. Since the stadium is private property, Rogers Centre security have the right to remove fans and responsibility to protect other fans, players, employees, and property. Perhaps Jackson or the Star can go request the statements and reports of the incident from the Toronto Police to see what's in them.

I do agree with the Jackson that fans have the right to "cheer, jeer, chant, yell, boo and generally vocalize my adulation of the home team or my derision of the visitor." Booing, taunting, heckling are all rights that ticket holders have, although just because it is a right doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do. Of course, the right to freedom of expression does not cross the line into expletives or threats. The ticket holder also has no right to throw items (even light ones like peanuts and paper airplanes) onto the field or at anyone.

I also agree that it would be creepy to have someone take a picture me, and I probably would have confronted the person much like Jackson. And if the guy tells me to sit down or face removal, I would probably have demanded him on what authority and on what charge he had to do so. Now, since the author was not removed, we can only speculate on whether that was a real or a fake threat. In any case, if a Yankees staff member had threatened to remove a fan for peacefully confronting him, then that would be unprofessional (ie. dickish) behaviour on the staff member's part. However, I would assume that in the majority of the cases, intimidation is their biggest weapon. "Sit down or I'll have you removed" may get the job done if a fan just wants to watch the game.

A stadium with 40,000 fans can be difficult to control, and players in the Rogers Centre bullpens are completely open to fans. I can understand why the Yankees feel the need to hire staff to keep an eye on the fans to make sure that their players (or their wives) are not harmed, and just like any other person in the stadium, they have the right to snitch on the unruly behaviour of other fans by reporting it to stadium security. What they shouldn't do is to confront any of the Blue Jays fans themselves and to threaten them with their false authority. One also hopes that Rogers Centre security staff don't just blindly follow their orders.

They can go ahead and protect their players by acting as an extra pair of eyes, but they can't go around and do the policing themselves.

As most of what has been reported have been of the he said-she said variety. I am reluctant to immediately jump to conclusions and make judgments before I see more facts. There are just too many unanswered questions, and I'll leave it to the intrepid Toronto journalists to get to the bottom of this.

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