Tennessee Congressmen: Not the same ‘ol SONG and dance

The SONG Act, or “Stadiums Operating Under New Governance Act” was introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) on July 9, 2019.

To direct the Secretary of Transportation, acting through the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, to revise section 91.145 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, such that the term “sporting” does not limit the types of major events described in such section.

Its purpose is pretty straightforward. The FAA has rules and restrictions regarding the airspace above NFL and NCAA Division I stadiums. Mainly concerning the use of recreational drones and proximity of aircraft (helicopters, blimps, small airplanes with advertising banners, military flyovers, and obviously, in the aftermath of 9/11, commercial passenger planes).

The same rules that apply to stadium sporting events should apply to rock concerts. After all, from a public safety perspective, what’s the difference between a sold out concert and a packed football game? Last time I checked, people are people.

Representative Cohen sums it up…

Keeping spectators safe in public gatherings of large numbers of people for any kind of event just makes sense, and this bill simply gives the FAA authority to restrict air space when it considers it necessary.”

The original co-sponsors of the bill echo a similar sentiment.

Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN): 
  
“Did you know the FAA can restrict flights over stadiums during sporting events but not concerts? I think Nashvillians agree if drones or small planes aren’t allowed to fly over Nissan Stadium during a Titans game, then they shouldn’t be permitted during a Taylor Swift or Thomas Rhett concert either. The SONG Act will give the FAA the power it needs to protect all of our events. Congress needs to quickly pass it.”  
 
Congressman Tim Burchett (R-TN):
  
“Major athletic events are a big part of life in East Tennessee, and when athletic facilities aren’t being used, they’re often playing host to various concerts and other entertainment events that are open to the public. Allowing the FAA to clear the airspace above these non-athletic events just makes sense and will help keep attendees safe.” 
 
Congressman John Rose (R-TN):
 
“Tennessee’s music is known around the world. Every year we welcome countless tourists to enjoy our state’s world-class entertainment. Just as athletic events have brought people together and boosted Tennessee’s tourism revenue, music and other forms of entertainment have done the same. It’s time to allow the FAA to consider concert goers’ safety under the same provisions as those afforded athletic events’ attendees.” 
 
Congressman David Kustoff (R-TN): 
 
“Securing the air around big entertainment venues is just as important as securing the ground space. West Tennesseans should be able to enjoy concerts and other entertainment events without worrying about their safety. The SONG Act is a reasonable bill that will give FAA the authority to clear the airspace above these events, ensuring the safety of all Americans.”
 
The Country Music Association has also endorsed the SONG Act.
 
“The safety of our fans and artists will always be our utmost concern.  We are delighted that Representatives Cohen, Burchett, Cooper, Rose and Kustoff are working to allow the FAA to extend the airspace restrictions currently available during live sporting events to also cover large live music events. We believe the safety of music fans is just as critical as that of sports fans.  The CMA is grateful for their support.” 

Now all of these statements are virtually identical. Why? Because they’re all common sense.

In this day and age, the rancor and divisive partisanship in Washington, DC is quite palpable. But while Congress may be extremely divided on hot button issues like abortion and immigration, its members can still find common ground on issues in the realm of public safety. Why? Because the material is objective, not subjective. It’s factual, not emotional.

Still, I’d like to make a suggestion. Let’s improve the SONG Act by adding some very specific, generic public safety information.

We must encourage government and private industry to explicitly warn stadium attendees… that official emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phone or mobile device. Why? Because if an evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, incident command utilizes the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron/video monitors. They would not use cell phones to deliver the initial evac order. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. And even if they could, they shouldn’t. This isn’t speculation. This isn’t a judgment call. It’s decades of established protocol. And quite simply, it’s the truth.

If such an order was delivered to your cell phone, there’s an overwhelming probability that something has gone terribly wrong. Because it would represent a blatant attempt to force a sudden, unscheduled evacuation. And by that, I mean it would obviously be an attempt to create a panic and weaponize a human stampede. The only other remote possibility… someone is trying to evacuate a stadium for their own personal amusement. And that wouldn’t be good either.

I wondered why the SONG Act originated in the state of Tennessee. But then I gave it some thought.

Nashville, TN is the country music capital of the world. Entertainment and tourism represent a major source of state revenue. Also, considering its relatively small population, the state of Tennessee boasts an NFL venue as well as four NCAA Division I stadiums — University of Tennessee, University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, and Vanderbilt University.

And don’t forget Bristol Motor Speedway. On September 10, 2016, BMS hosted the largest football game in the history of the United States. Tennessee played Virginia Tech in front of a whopping crowd of 156,990. The “Battle of Bristol” was such a financial success that organizers guaranteed a future game.

The state of Tennessee is certainly an entertainment destination. But with that distinction, comes a heightened degree of responsibility.

I salute the representatives of Tennessee for trying to get “ahead of the curve” on this one. Being proactive requires legislating with a long-term event horizon and demonstrating a willingness to address some really unsettling hypothetical scenarios in the realm of national security.

Perhaps one of these Congressmen would step up to the plate and speak out on behalf of AGSAF (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation). Now THAT, would truly take some guts. I’m sure President Donald Trump would concur. Although it’s been rumored he thinks the SONG Act stands for Stampedes are Ominous, Not Good!

Just kidding. As if Trump would really be familiar with the word “ominous.”