The NFL is getting more serious about conduct in the stands.
This year, its teams are requiring any fan who gets ejected from a stadium to take a four-hour online course before they are permitted to come back into the facility again.
The course, designed by psychotherapist Dr. Ari Novick in tandem with the MetLife Stadium security director Daniel DeLorenzi, focuses on alcohol abuse, anger management and crude behavior. A handful of teams have used the course over the past couple seasons, but this summer, as part of a review of their best practices, every team decided to enforce the course on offending fans this season.
This program was designed to say to people, 'We want you to have fun when you come to a game, but you have to understand that your actions can affect people and there are rules to abide by.'” -- Psychotherapist Dr. Ari Novick
"For decades, some fans have believed that when they put on the jersey of their favorite player on their favorite team and they enter a stadium, they can behave any way they want," Novick said. "This program was designed to say to people, 'We want you to have fun when you come to a game, but you have to understand that your actions can affect people and there are rules to abide by.' "
The program is an extension of the NFL Fan Code of Conduct that the league implemented in 2008 to better control unruly fans by threatening to revoke ticket privileges for future games.
Novick said when fans get ejected from a game this year, they will be sent a letter that encourages them to apologize to the team and complete the course. If they fail to meet the requirement, and they are caught on stadium property, they are told they could be arrested for trespassing.
Not only do fans have to take the course if they want to come back to the stadium, they have to pay for it, too. Costs vary by team. The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons charge the least at $50, while the New England Patriots charge a league-high $100. When a fan completes the course, Novick's company forwards that information to the club.
Skeptics might wonder how teams are going to keep track of ejected fans from week to week. Ray DiNunzio, the NFL's director of strategic security, told ESPN the monitoring will vary by team but could at some point involve facial recognition technology.
Approximately 7,000 people were ejected from NFL stadiums last season. The number varied by team but some teams are known to be more strict in certain areas than others. The Oakland Raiders, for example, have a zero-tolerance policy for smoking. DiNunzio said the Raiders could eject up to 300 fans a game for lighting up.
Darren Rovell is ESPN's sports business insider.