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Dunlap: Get Belligerent Fans Out For Good

The cycle generally goes like this …

Our beloved football games are played on weekends.

We cheer for, shout at and attempt to will our favorite team to a victory as, undeniably it appears, football has become America's biggest addiction.

As the cycle continues into the week, however, seemingly each week we are met with a story of some (oftentimes alcohol-powered) knucklehead who inebriatedly inhabited one of our stadiums and did something far over the line of respectful fandom.

So frequently --- because everyone has a smartphone now --- video evidence of such unmanageable conduct inside a stadium winds up on or similar website, we talk about the idiots who acted like idiots and move on.

That is, until next weekend when the cycle, for the most part invariably, continues.

From San Francisco to Philadelphia, from Los Angeles to New York --- goofs being goofs and feeling like they can be goofs because they bought a ticket.

This past weekend, the bulls eye for such idiotic and senseless behavior coupled with attending a sporting event fell right on our treasured Pittsburgh, Pa. and Heinz Field as some Einstein named Stephen Sapp allegedly put on quite a show (

You probably know the story by now. Sapp, 29 and allegedly fueled by alcohol, was arrested after injuring a woman at Heinz Field Sunday evening by kicking a steel barrier.

Sapp was allegedly yelling and screaming and throwing and kicking steel barriers around and some woman --- who signed up only to go to a Steelers game that day --- wound up waking up in Allegheny General Hospital with a head injury because of this degenerate.

To top it off, Sapp allegedly attempted to bribe officers by claiming he was an IRS Agent and could cut a deal with them if they let him walk.

Sapp is facing a list of charges including aggravated assault, defiant trespass, resisting arrest, recklessly endangering another person and bribery. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

What a buffoon.

That's the problem, however. We know this. Some people in crowds and when their flames are fanned by barley and sports can't handle themselves civilly.

Here's the solution --- one strike and you are out.

Yes, that's right --- one strike and you are out. For good.

It is time to take what is a safety issue and make it a bit of a political one.

That is to say, if we really want to put the safety of fans before making dollars, it is time for our professional sports teams and leagues to band together with the owners of stadiums --- and perhaps politicians --- and rid themselves of these miscreants after only one offense.

When someone like Sapp commits a transgression like this --- or is involved in a fight in the stands for whatever reason --- issue them the requisite citations along with a no trespass order.

Simply, ban them from your property and don't let them back. Ever.

It would be nice, too, if CONSOL, PNC Park and Heinz Field could somehow band together --- being that all rest in the City of Pittsburgh --- and incontrovertibly rid themselves of these types of fans from all the venues if they act up to a ridiculously degree just once.

I'm not a stadium owner, team legal representative or politician of any sort, but I find it incomprehensible that this can't happen.

There has to be a way, just has to be a way, you can deny admission for some to your stadium. Or, at the very least, if you catch someone who you issued a no trespass order to in your stadium, be able to hit them with a very severe punishment.

Somehow, some way we must make our stadiums safer --- and I suggest one strike and you are out. For good.

Some of my friends give me grief for my fondness for European soccer and, particularly the English Premier League. Some of the detractors of the sports jump to a conclusion --- because of past incidents of hooliganism --- that the supporters of clubs are hell-bent on causing a ruckus, fighting and forcing general mayhem.

Maybe in the past, but not so much now.

In recent years, teams have come down hard on fans who engage in such behavior with bans from stadiums ranging from 10 years to lifetime bans for supporters who engage in anything from fisticuffs inside or outside the stadium to racist chanting.

This has, no doubt, diminished the violence.

On top of that, many soccer stadiums in England are outfitted with surveillance cameras so as if an act is committed, there is incontestable evidence as to what happened.

Wonderful ideas ---- both the installation of cameras and the stringent bans that are handed down to offenders.

It is something that the NFL --- and all our teams here in Pittsburgh --- would do well to look into.

That woman who was hit in the head and knocked unconscious at the Steelers game on Sunday night? Her name is Melissa Yancec.

Some day, someone like Melissa Yancec is never going to get up because of some jerk like Stephen Sapp.

Let's at least try to fix the problem and get as many troublemakers out of our stadiums as possible before --- God forbid --- that happens.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 "The Fan." You can e-mail him at Check out his bio here.

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