During a 2012 NFL playoff game between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints, Shawn Payton, 34, a Jackson, Michigan resident, phoned in 2 separate bomb threats to the Mercedes Superdome. The crowd attendance for this event was listed at 73,038.
An FBI affidavit states that Payton made two separate threats. At 9:12 pm, the Superdome’s Gate F reception desk received a call in which Payton stated, “I will blow up your building.” A second call was made at 10:03 pm in which the caller stated, “Hi, I want to relay a message to the sideline. If your stupid Southern team keeps winning, there will be reper… severe consequences, OK?”
These threats were assessed internally and it was correctly determined that a full scale emergency evacuation was unnecessary.
Payton was formally indicted by federal grand jury and charged with one count of sending threatening communications through interstate commerce, a charge that carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In June of 2012, Payton pled guilty to a felony count of “transmitting threats to injure in interstate communications.” In September of that year, a federal judge sentenced Payton to 3 years probation and 60 days home confinement.
Considering the magnitude of the game, the national news media jumped on the story. Until recently, bomb threats at high profile sporting events were not usually made available for public consumption. Such action was uncommon and generally deemed counterproductive. However, there seems to be a national shift in this long held position. This could be attributed to a few factors:
- a greater prevalence of bomb threats
- an increasing variety of mediums in which threats can be delivered
- a gradual, societal desensitization of the potential negative consequences due to the increasing frequency of bomb threats
Is it reasonable to conclude that bomb threats are almost becoming “passe?” There seems to be a “begrudging acceptance” among those who professionally assess such threats. An “Ughh… this is likely NOT a credible threat. But we’re required to take it seriously. So we WILL get through it” attitude is often the case.
Dependence on a manual or scripted flow chart can be very helpful in assessing singular, conventional threats. However, AGSAF is more concerned with the potential for mass, multilateral, asymmetric communications. Such safety concerns are an area of extreme neglect.
In 2013, the Mercedes Superdome was in the news once again. It played host to Superbowl XLVII. Roughly 108 million viewers watched as the infamous “blackout” occurred early in the second half. The origins of the blackout were eventually traced back to a relay switch that observed power fluctuations and functioned properly.
CNN’s anchor Don Lemon delved into the cause of the blackout in a live, breaking news segment. As one could imagine, it was exceedingly difficult to acquire accurate, real-time information. At one point, Lemon made a reference to reports of a “fire in the boiler room” of the Superdome. Suddenly, he appeared to be admonished through his IFB (Interruptible Feedback). Lemon recovered but appeared visibly frustrated. At the end of the segment, he threw his pen and lamented about the level of difficulty and degree of confusion with reporting breaking news events as they transpire. Is it possible that a producer was simultaneously warning him of the ramifications of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” during a national broadcast?
Breaking news transcripts are made available on the CNN website.
Oddly enough, the official CNN breaking news transcript from during the Superbowl is unavailable. It would appear that it has been intentionally omitted from their website. This was breaking news DURING a televised event with a viewership exceeding 100 million. Other than it being a potential source of embarrassment, is it possible that sensitive, hypothetical information was accidentally speculated upon or inadvertently released?
In the aftermath of the blackout, many people questioned as to “why” it happened. Viewers wanted to know the cause. But very little coverage was given to the question of “what could have transpired if…”
As for other network coverage, MSNBC did not interrupt its regularly scheduled programming. Fox News offered a brief synopsis of the blackout and returned to their regularly scheduled programming.
Total attendance for Superbowl XLVII was listed at 71,024.