Barclays Center Stampede Revisited

On May 19, 2017, chaos ensued at the end of a hip hop concert inside the lavish Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY).  A crowd panic erupted after fans heard gunshots fired.  The name of the tour, featuring headliner rap star Future, was entitled “Nobody Safe.”  How ironically appropriate.


NYPD Lieutenant Tarik Sheppard issued the following statement:

“As people were exiting the Barclays Center, there was music playing over the PA system.  The song that was playing had the sound of gunshots at the end.  In addition, the stage was lowered and it came down faster than normal causing a loud metal on metal crashing sound.  These sounds coupled together startled some people and they began to exit quicker than normal.”

The Barclays Center tweeted a statement of their own:

In early January 2018, two individuals filed separate lawsuits alleging injuries from the stampede.  One directed at concert promoter Live Nation, the other against the venue.

I considered writing about the incident at the time, but it seemed a little fluky and isolated.  Eight months later I’ve reconsidered my original position.

The incident reminds me of similar circumstances that led to a mass panic at JFK International Airport (Queens, NY).  This particular stampede transpired a few months later on August 14, 2017.  I wrote about it extensively.  After all, it’s a mass panic in the 5th busiest airport in the United States.

Regarding both JFK Airport and the Barclays Center, some really strange parallels were in play.  The JFK stampede was actually the result of gunfire, but it came from the 100 meter dash at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  That isolated, lone shot (literally heard round the world), reverberated on the seemingly endless number of television screens inside the airport.  That’s one loud bang!  Followed of course, by screams and thunderous applause from inside the airport lounges, restaurants and narrow corridors.


When you think of panic and stampedes, most Americans naturally think of religious festivals in India and the Middle East.  Or violent soccer games abroad.  Or protest and civil unrest.

Most U.S. citizens have this pervasive attitude that, with the exception of an occasional Black Friday Christmas shopping fiasco at Walmart, Americans are more civilized and things like that just don’t happen here in the states.  And if they do happen, it’s a complete and utter anomaly.

So when a stampede does occur, you often get this reasoned justification, “Well, it was a unique situation.  Look it was a rap concert in Brooklyn.  What do you expect might happen, when a bunch of stoners, criminals and gang bangers, gather for a concert in the middle of New York City?”

Here’s the deal.  Stampedes happen because of variables, not the sudden breakdown of human civility.  People often forget that human beings are mammals, making our species equally prone to herding instincts.  But people just don’t spontaneously behave like animals… unless there’s a trigger.  Again, people are merely reacting to dangerously unexpected conditions.  They are not collectively altering their entire psychological makeup.  It’s not about the panic.  It’s about the variables which lead to the panic.

One of those “future” variables might just have something to do with cell phones.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot of people sitting, standing, walking, jogging, running, even driving… and they all have one thing in common.  They’re all carrying a cell phone.  Listening to music, talking to people, sending texts and tweets, scrolling through their social media feeds, staring intently into those tiny screens.  They’re all seeking instant information and immediate gratification.

So here’s the zillion dollar question — what’s the game plan for when all that wireless information takes a turn for the worse?  Where’s the master plan?  What’s the strategy?

Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no universal contingency plan.  Why?  Because the discussion, is by its very nature, undiscussable.

So why do I have this nagging suspicion… that one of these days… this “adult” conversation will eventually take place?   Likely in the aftermath of a tragedy.

My personal theory regarding this “Future Convo” — hey, it’s better late than never.  And whether shedding light on this asymmetric cyber-threat makes me a nerd, or cool, or whatever, I’m not really sure.  But I do have a hunch, that one of these days, humanity will find out.  Now will I get a thumbs up?  I honestly have no idea.  Your guess is as good as mine.