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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Violence by fans reaches Hawai'i

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

There was a time when fan violence at sporting events involved fights in the stands.

But rowdy fan behavior is working its way down to the playing fields and putting the athletes, coaches and officials in harm's way.

The most infamous recent incident occurred last baseball season at Chicago's Comiskey Park when a father and son attacked a Kansas City Royals coach.

About a month ago — at the same ballpark — an intoxicated fan attacked an umpire. Four days later, a fan at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum threw a cell phone that hit Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett in the back of the head.

The issue hit home Friday night during an on-field fight between the Wichita Stealth and Hawaiian Islanders at Blaisdell Arena.

The fight occurred during the second quarter of the arenafootball2 game, and as it escalated a couple of fans got involved.

During a video viewing of the melee Monday, The Advertiser and Islanders director of communications Thomas Yoshida witnessed a male fan reaching over the four-foot-high sideline wall, punching Wichita's Drew Mitchell and viciously yanking the facemask of Stealth player Brian Livingston.

The video also showed a male fan on the other side of the field walking into the Wichita bench area and throwing a black bag and chair onto the field. The bag grazed a Wichita player, but the chair didn't strike anyone.

Both fans were ejected from the arena, said Billy Makaila, a consultant for Pacific Island Security, the company hired to work at Islanders' games.

When asked if the fans were intoxicated, Makaila said: "No, just excited I think. When you cheer for the home team, guys can get carried away."

According to Wichita head coach Bob Cortese, a fan struck one of his players with a chair.

The video did not show anyone being hit by a chair, and Makaila said, "There's nothing to that."

Cortese added: "Over here we had two guys punched."

No fans stepped onto the field and there were no reported injures.

Makaila, who worked Friday night's game, said 17 security guards normally work during games and nine are positioned inside the arena.

Makaila said he'll suggest adding two more security guards and positioning them behind the visitors' bench for future games at a meeting today with Islanders officials.

"It sounds like a good idea," Islanders director of operations Marci Joy said. "We haven't had a problem before, so we're exploring the possibilities."

Makaila cautioned against overreacting.

"We shouldn't blow this out of proportion and bring a whole bunch of security," he said.

Makaila had no comment when asked if security members are allowed to go onto the field.

Joy said, "like college and professional football, they don't go out on the field. It's the officials' domain unless they ask for it (security)."

The first few rows of fans at arena football games are positioned close to the field, and Makaila said there was nothing security could have done to prevent Friday's incident. The Islanders' slogan is "You're in the Game!"

"For security it's how fast you can get there," Makaila said. "A lot of things were happening. We had distractions from all different angles."

Wichita's Jared Flint, who played for the Islanders last season and for the University of Hawai'i in 2001, said the fan behavior at the game was uncharacteristic.

"It's unfortunate the fans were involved, it's kind of disappointing," Flint said. "I and the Hawai'i guys know — and this is my second home — that Hawai'i fans are really good fans. I was disappointed people were throwing stuff on the field and I was having stuff thrown at me all game."

Islanders head coach Cal Lee hopes the team won't have similar problems on road trips.

"We will be traveling away and we will be visitors and you want to make sure the safety of the players is foremost in the minds of security," Lee said.

The Islanders' next game is Saturday at the Cincinnati Swarm.

Other instances of fan violence jeopardizing the safety of on-field participants:

October 1993 — Tennis player Monica Seles is stabbed in the back during a tournament at Hamburg, Germany.

December 1995 — A San Diego Chargers equipment manager is knocked unconscious by a snowball thrown from the stands during a game against the host New York Giants.

December 2001 — Thousands of plastic bottles are tossed onto the field at Cleveland Stadium in a game between the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars after a late call was reversed.