The statistics regarding violence at school and other amateur sporting events have been cited regularly in the media — yet violence at those events continues unabated. A bench-clearing melee at a college football game on November 20, 2004, served as an exclamation point to the horrendous violence involving spectators and players at an NBA basketball game on November 19th. The television re-runs of the incident, and the action taken by the NBA against the offending players, speaks for itself. It is time for every parent, if not every prospective spectator of an organized athletic event, to consider the wisdom of attending contests that have become as much about the egos of the fans as about the players.
Nowhere in the rule book of any sport is criminal violence authorized. Even in those sports events where physical force is part of the competition, causing injury to an opponent may be incidental to the goal of the competition but it is not the goal itself. Even in boxing, a sport about which there is debate over the whether it has crossed the line to violence for violence sake, there are rules which must be observed. For example, to continue fighting after a bout is over may result in criminal charges because sport is not an automatic exemption from civil or criminal assault prosecution. More and more competitors are coming under the jurisdiction of our courts because they have responded to losing a match, or even an argument, by engaging in impermissible violence.
One month before the September 11th tragedy, I accepted an invitation to give a workshop on aviation security at a conference in San Francisco. In substance, the workshop considered the recommendations made by the panel investigating the causes of the Lockerbee bombing; the recommendations and legislation coming from the Gore Commission on aviation security in 1997; and the findings from several other private and public studies on the terrorism threat to America and American commercial aviation. Our goal was to determine whether implementing recommended broad changes to the system was warranted by the foreseeable risks of terrorism against airports and airliners in the United States. The overall sentiment of the group of aviation industry and government personnel attending was that things were working well as they were. After all, we hadn’t had a terrorist attack against commercial aviation in the United States, and that was proof of the effectiveness of the system, wasn’t it?
The information coming out of the 9/11 hearings — about the failures of our intelligence community to provide national leaders and the public with information sufficient to warn the nation — is disheartening. In order to prepare for the foreseeable risks of terrorism, as with crime in all of its forms, you must know your enemies, understand their intent, and evaluate the security in place to protect against the threats presented against you. We have learned that we as a nation did not really know our enemies, but rather knew of them. We had information about tactics that might be employed by them, but we didn’t acknowledge the need to prepare for such tactics; and we knew that our security, particularly aviation security, was in place, but we did not ensure that it was prepared for the challenges that were to be faced.
A CNN Wolf Blitzer Report of February 23, 2004, on aviation security describes it as “a work in progress.” Recent reports to Congress by the General Accounting Office (September 24, 2003), and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (January, 2004), both completed more than two years after the Transportation Security Administration was created, indicate that “the work in progress” may not be keeping pace with events threatening the nation’s security from another aviation industry based disaster.
The duty to provide reasonable security against foreseeable crime risks has held my attention since the landmark case involving singer Connie Francis, who was assaulted by an unknown assailant in her motel room after a performance on Long Island. While innkeepers have had a duty to provide security for their guests as long ago as the Middle Ages, the notion of holding the innkeeper responsible in damages for an assault on a guest by an unknown attacker because of the alleged negligence of the lodging’s owner was a new concept in the 1970’s. It has since has given rise to a very active premises liability practice for lawyers on both sides of the issue.