- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The NFL is taking a hard stand against fan violence after a second ugly display marred a game.
One day after a game in Cleveland was interrupted when fans threw objects, including partially filled plastic beer bottles, onto the field, the same thing happened in New Orleans. Both times, the fans were unhappy with officials' calls.
"We are not going to tolerate objects being thrown from the stands," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. "We will work with our clubs to review all aspects of these incidents and take whatever steps are necessary to prevent them from happening again."
Fans in the corner of one end zone of the Superdome reacted Monday night after officials flagged Saints cornerback Kevin Mathis for pass interference against the Rams' Torry Holt. The call late in the fourth quarter of New Orleans' 34-21 loss sparked a brief demonstration that left one side of the end zone littered with debris.
The outburst, which lasted less than 30 seconds, came a day after fans in Cleveland threw bottles and other debris to protest the overturning by instant replay of a game-deciding call.
"I think we agree that this really was what you call a copycat incident after what happened in Cleveland," said Superdome general manager Doug Thornton.
Fifteen people in the Superdome were arrested for disturbing the peace, public drunkenness and battery all misdemeanors that carry $500 in fines or six months in jail, said New Orleans police department spokesman Joe Narcisse. Another four were served summonses and 11 others were ejected from the building.
Thornton said Superdome officials will urge the district attorney's office to prosecute those charged with crimes. He said they would also talk to the Saints about permanently revoking season tickets from holders involved in such events.
And Saints manager of ticket sales and services Michael Stanfield agreed: "We would revoke somebody's tickets immediately if they were caught taking part in such an incident."
Items thrown on the field included plastic beer bottles, plastic water bottles, cups, ice even a pair of binoculars.
Stadium sales of beer in plastic bottles began several years ago, Thornton said. They are popular with fans because the plastic bottles are easier to carry than cups and they eliminate foam in draft beer. They are popular with stadiums because they are faster to serve and cut down the length of concession lines.
The Superdome had extra security officers, including state and city police, on duty for Monday night's game. Dome officials halted beer sales by vendors in the stands after halftime and stopped all beer sales at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The outburst took place in the plaza seating area closest to the field, where many season ticket holders sit. The area was particularly crowded because the Saints sold 1,700 standing room tickets.
The Saints are reviewing the decision on standing room tickets.
Night games, when fans may have begun drinking before arriving at the stadium, traditionally cause more problems than day games, Thornton said.
Milt Ahlerich, the NFL's director of security, remained in town yesterday and met with Superdome officials most of the morning. Ahlerich has spent considerable time here the past month setting up heavy security for the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Superdome on Feb. 3.
Thornton said he would consult league officials on solutions that might include bans on plastic containers and penalties for season ticket holders.
"I don't know what the solution is," he said, "but we can't tolerate this situation."

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