San Francisco - Two San Francisco 49er season ticket holders are challenging the new pat-down policy implemented by the 49ers this season. The ACLU of Northern California is representing Dan Sheehan, a season ticket holder for more than thirty-five years, and his wife Kathleen, who say their right to privacy under the California Constitution is being violated. The suit was filed today in San Francisco Superior Court. The ACLU-NC is asking the court to rule that the pat-downs violate the California Constitution.
“I’ve been going to 49ers games since before the team left Kezar stadium,” said Daniel Sheehan, “Going to the games has became a real family event that we all look forward to. It is a tradition that I am proud of. But this year, my family and I have been forced to submit to pat-downs by complete strangers that run their hands over my back, arms, waist and the outside of my legs. I find it terribly offensive that my family and I now have to be subjected to this because of some unknown fear. Should being frisked by a stranger really be the price of admission to a football game?”
The pat-down policy was implemented this season in response to a directive from the NFL, citing post-September 11th security concerns.
“Why should thousands of fans be forced to allow a stranger to frisk them based on nothing more than pure speculation that football games might be a target?” said Ann Brick, ACLU-NC staff attorney. “Giving in to that way of thinking erodes the basic fabric of our free society and our constitutional right to privacy without making us any safer.”
Earlier this year, a Florida court held that pat-downs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games are unconstitutional and the Florida court of appeal refused to stay the injunction.
ACLU-NC cooperating attorney Benjamin Riley, a lawyer at the firm of Chapman, Popik & White added: “The citizens of California enacted Proposition 11, the Privacy Initiative, to ensure that every California citizen’s right to privacy would be explicitly protected by our state’s constitution. The 49ers’ pat-down policy violates the right to privacy by forcing fans to subject themselves to repeated “‘touching, patting and light rubbing”’ before they can enter Monster Park to watch the 49ers play. Courts have already prohibited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from conducting these suspicionless searches, and we are confident they will do so here as well.”
The plaintiffs, Dan and Kathy Sheehan were born and raised in San Francisco. The couple have been married for 45 years and have five sons and several grandchildren. Dan Sheehan is a retired glazer and Kathy Sheehan worked as a server for 20 years in the cafeteria at Jefferson Elementary School, which is part of the San Francisco Unified School District.