Senator Wiener Proposes New Bill to Enhance Player Safety and Security at Professional Sporting Events
Sacramento – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) today announced a bill that will enhance the safety and security of players and coaches participating in professional sporting events in California. Senate Bill 689, the Player Safety and Security Act, will build upon existing law and strengthen penalties for individuals who run onto the field or court of play, or who throw objects into those areas in an effort to disrupt the game. The bill will also enhance penalties for attacks on players and coaches by extending existing measures that currently only protect umpires and referees.
Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), and Tom Daly (D-Anahiem) have signed on as co-authors of the bill. SB 689 is sponsored by the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels, and the San Jose Earthquakes, and is also supported by Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a growing list of teams from other professional sports leagues, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Golden State Warriors.
“The statewide support for this bill shows that we can all work together to strengthen penalties for running onto the field and to keep athletes safe,” said Senator Wiener. “No one, not fans or players, should feel unsafe at these games. This bill will help to discourage behavior that can be dangerous for both the players and those running onto the field or court. I want to thank my colleagues from up and down the state for joining me as co-authors of this commonsense bill.”
The existing penalty in California for jumping from the stands and running onto the field of play or throwing an object to interfere with play is a fine of just $250. This nominal penalty stands in stark contrast with more substantial penalties imposed for similar offenses in states like New York and Illinois. The Player Safety and Security Act will strengthen California law, making field trespassers subject to arrest and enhanced penalties (e.g., infraction or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances).
In addition, SB 689 will establish protections for players and coaches from on-field attacks. Currently, California law only protects referees and umpires from battery during a sporting event by imposing either a fine of $2,000 or up to one year imprisonment, or both. Under SB 689, those same penalties will be extended to an assailant committing battery against a player or coach.
“As a co-author of the Player Safety and Security Act, I look forward to working with Senator Wiener to implement protections for players and coaches when they are at their most vulnerable during play,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “The widespread support behind this effort shows that we all understand that the safety and security of people at work should never be compromised.”
“Player safety is one of our top priorities in Major League Baseball. Players and coaches are at their most vulnerable during play, when they are focused on the game and largely unaware of activity in the stands. This can leave them open to an attack by someone who trespasses onto the field during play,” said Laurence Baer, CEO of the San Francisco Giants. “We need statewide penalties that are serious enough to make people think twice about running out onto the field during a game and compromising safety and security. SB 689 will give us the tools we need to prosecute trespassers and will serve as a deterrent to this type of unlawful activity.”
“California already prohibits field incursions, but we need stronger penalties to better deter this behavior and protect players and coaches from harm,” said John Skinner, Sr. Director of Security & Facility Management for Major League Baseball. “In many other states, field trespassing is at least a misdemeanor and, in some cases, a felony. We think California athletes and coaches should have similar protections at home too.”
The bill will be considered by the Public Safety Committee next month.
Frequently Asked Questions
SB 689 Player Safety and Security Act
1.What is the current state law applicable to field trespassers and throwers of objects onto the field with the intent to disrupt?
The existing penalty in California for trespassing onto the field of play or throwing an object to interfere with play is a fine of just $250. SB 689 would amend California Penal Code Sections 234.8 and 243.83.
2.What is the current law applicable to persons who commit battery against a player or coach during play?
An existing California law, Penal Code Section 243.8, imposes either a fine of $2,000 or up to one year imprisonment, or both, on persons who commit battery against a sports official participating in a sporting event, but that law does not currently extend to players or coaches. Under existing state law, an attack on a player or coach would need to be charged under generally applicable provisions.
3.What changes will the proposed legislation make to existing law?
SB 689 will increase potential criminal penalties associated with field trespassing and throwing an object onto the field during play with the intent to interfere with play or distract a player by making both acts punishable as either an infraction with a fine up to $1,000.00 or a misdemeanor with up to ten days in county jail and a fine of $2,500 for the first offense. A subsequent offense within five years of the first offense would become punishable as a misdemeanor with up to sixty days in jail and a fine up to $5,000.00. SB 689 will also impose a fine of $2,000 or up to one year imprisonment, or both, on persons who commit battery against a player or coach.
4.What about other jurisdictions local laws, how will they be impacted?
Some municipalities use local tools to prosecute field trespassers and object throwers. Existing local laws will remain intact as SB 689 will be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any local provisions and enforcement tools. SB 689 will provide statewide protection for players and coaches regardless of where in the state a game is being played.
5.Why do we need this legislation?
Players and other on-field personnel are extremely vulnerable to the risks posed by field incursions while engaged in play. Last year alone, perpetrators ran onto the field at San Francisco’s AT&T Park on several occasions, leading to the serious injury of a security guard and a forced altercation with a player. This problem is nothing new in the sporting world. One of the most horrific examples involved a fan jumping onto the court and stabbing tennis player Monica Seles. In another incident, a Kansas City Royals coach was attacked and seriously injured by fans running onto the field during a game against the Chicago White Sox. There have also been several incidents where fans dangerously threw large “D” batteries at baseball players. Senate Bill 689 will enable law enforcement to more effectively address unlawful behavior and provide a safer environment for field personnel.