Ban on stadium patdowns being appealed

The NFL will pay for the appeal, which may mean the return of the security measure for the Buccaneers' home game Sunday.

Published November 1, 2005

TAMPA - With the National Football League agreeing to pay the bill, the Tampa Sports Authority voted Monday to appeal a court ruling barring patdowns at Raymond James Stadium.

For fans, that means that patdowns will continue when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at home Sunday, and until the appeal is resolved - maybe.

Attorneys for the season ticket holder who sued the Sports Authority over the security measure can seek to have the patdowns stopped while the appeal is considered. They have indicated they are likely to do that.

"We'll take whatever steps are necessary to protect our client's constitutional rights," said Rebecca Steele, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Sports Authority intends to appeal in time for Sunday's game, but attorneys were still awaiting the judge's written ruling.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Perry Little issued a temporary injunction last week halting the patdown searches two weeks after a Valrico high school civics teacher, Gordon Johnston, sued. Little ruled that Johnston is likely to prevail in his claim that the patdowns are an unconstitutional search.

The discussion among Sports Authority board members Monday centered largely on the cost of implementing patdowns and now defending them. The NFL ordered the patdowns at each of its 32 teams' stadiums.

Some board members grumbled that neither the league nor the Buccaneers have agreed to pay for the patdowns, or the $21,000 cost to defend the measure so far.

"I think that we're fighting a fight that is not our fight. This is an NFL fight," said board member Frank DuBose. "This should not be a cost that we bear."

"I'm trying to stop that bleeding of the tax dollars," said board member Mark Proctor, who tried but couldn't win support for his proposal to forgo an appeal. Proctor and chairman Patrick Manteiga were the only two who opposed appealing the judge's ruling.

In addition to agreeing to pay for the appeal, the NFL will cover the costs if Johnston seeks to have the Sports Authority pay his attorneys.

Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman, who sits on the Sports Authority and has argued for a conciliatory approach with the NFL and Buccaneers, said he supports the patdowns regardless of the debate over who should pay the bill. "I believe it is another layer of safety," he said.