Will Donald Trump Order an NFL Stadium Evacuation?

During a September 22, 2017 U.S. Senate rally for candidate Luther Strange (R-AL) in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump spoke the following…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kg8FoYE1lc

 

I posted the video link because the actual transcript is distressingly incoherent.  But the most important part was his closing sentiment…

When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee… when they’re playing our great national anthem… (collective boos from the crowd) the only thing you can do better is if you see it… even if it’s one player… leave the stadium.  I guarantee things will stop.  Things will stop.  Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave.

Reaction to Trump’s comments has been widespread and swift.  Whenever Trump engages in hot-button issues or bombastic rhetoric, this is almost always the case.  But most of the social media outrage focused on his reference to ostracized QB Colin Kaepernick (get that son of a bitch off the field right now).  The premature evacuation angle received virtually no attention.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a carefully measured, crafted statement.

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.  There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.  Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

If I were Goodell, I would have issued an additional statement.  Please do not encourage NFL fans to prematurely exit the stadium.  Such behavior could interfere with NFL stadium security and is in direct violation of our existing emergency evacuation protocol.

Of course, the following day Trump doubled down with a mini-tweet storm…

If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…

…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!

several hours passed

Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!

around 7 am Sunday, September 24, Trump continued to tweet…

If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast.  Fire or suspend!

…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.

Whenever Trump interjects himself into controversy, one thing is for certain.  He doesn’t go quietly.  If you require additional evidence, picture this in terms of building the wall or fake news.  Crooked Hillary’s emails or the Obama birther controversy.

His infamous twitter tirades basically commenced the day he activated his twitter account.

Personally speaking, I don’t think Trump’s gonna let this matter go.  In fact, considering the NFL’s “national anthem flap” has been in the news for over a year, I’m actually astonished he didn’t weigh-in sooner.

But here’s what people fail to grasp.  Donald Trump might be the President of the United States, but he does NOT possess the authority to launch an NFL stadium evacuation.  The same principle applies to me as well.  I am also not allowed to launch an NFL stadium evacuation.  The ONLY person allowed to initiate a real-world evacuation is the stadium incident commander, preferably after consultation with other sources (the league front office, local officials and usually a weather liaison).  None of this is open for debate.  But whether or not Trump’s aware of this… is up for debate.  An even scarier scenario — he might not think the rules apply to him simply because he’s the “Commander-in-Chief.”

I expect many players to make a wide range of “political statements” today (sitting, taking a knee, raising a fist, locking arms, etc.)  Trump’s reactive use of twitter could provoke a potentially dangerous, real-time, social media response.  If he tries to drive a divisive wedge and test a fan’s enjoyment of the NFL vs. their loyalty, patriotism and love of country, it could yield unanticipated consequences.

Just an aside — Trump has a strong personal connection with Jets owner Woody Johnson and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.  Both have home games scheduled for 1pm on Sunday, September 24.  This might make him a bit more observant and “passionate” about what transpires.  Nine simultaneous games are scheduled for the 1 o’clock slate in some of the NFL’s most notable stadiums (Chicago, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Foxborough, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Buffalo, Detroit and Indianapolis).

Obviously, Trump has the ability to tweet a stadium evacuation order.  But here’s the billion dollar question.  Would he?

What if he interpreted an entire team kneeling in protest as a direct challenge to the authority of his presidency?  Would he just let it go?  How might someone known for his “thin skin” and impulsive tweeting react?

Trump isn’t known for his thoughtful analysis and critical thinking skills.  He is not one to offer tempered, judicious responses.  However, he is known for being impetuous and exhibiting signs of hostility.

What if Trump tweets for a temporary evacuation, but just to the concourses?  Instead of a full scale stadium evacuation?  He is likely unaware that the former is equally dangerous.

Another variable to consider… there are a lot of people on the sidelines.  The players, the back-ups, the coaches, the assistant coaches, team medical personnel, audio visual communication teams, reporters, officials, cheerleaders, mascots, and of course, stadium security and the police.  That’s a lot of individuals with different views and varying agendas.  Different political outlooks as well.

What if, and I realize this might seem like a bit of a stretch, but what if someone on the sidelines decide to take it a step further?  And throws a “Make America Great Again” hat to the ground and spits on it.  Or even worse, maybe throws down a Trump/Pence yard sign and publicly urinates on it at the start of the national anthem?  Would Trump just let it go?  Could he resist the temptation to tweet?

Oh yeah, one other thing.  There’s also 50,000 – 100,000 fans in the stands… with 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones.  Many of whom have a blood alcohol level that exceeds the legal limit.  Trust me.  I’ve attended over 100 Steelers games.  Fan behavior can quickly escalate out of control.

NFL stadiums are some of the most wirelessly hyper-connective environments on the planet earth.  Some contain over 1,000 wifi hubs.  That’s the cellular equivalent of 1,000 brick and mortar Starbucks coffee shops within a 1/4 mile radius.  All of them encased in concrete, glass and steel.

So here’s the hypothetical scenario that should be cause for alarm.  Just after the national anthem, what if a large, scattered contingency of people, triumphantly and aggressively, start moving toward the concourses… just as the game’s about to start?  This would represent something that doesn’t make sense.  How might others in the stands react?  Many fans would have no idea why this is happening.  How might they interpret a black swan event… something that is easily conceivable, but at the same time, has never occurred?

Human panic and stampedes don’t just spontaneously occur.  They are a result of unexpected VARIABLES.

What if Trump witnesses something he finds contemptible?  What if Trump’s phony, contrived rage triggers an emotional tweet like this?

If you love our country and support our flag (and this great nation), you will exit the stadium.  NOW!!!

In conclusion, I believe that Trump’s twitter feed could be that specific, unanticipated variable which triggers, or at the very least, is a contributing factor, to an “artificially generated stampede.”  And label me a pessimist, but judging from the tone and tenor of his previous, recent tweets about the NFL, his reckless, ill-conceived behavior could demonstrably function as an act of terrorism — producing a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate of games).