By Jim Turner
TALLAHASSEE — A proposal to increase penalties for interfering in Florida sports events wouldn’t prevent fans from storming the field after big wins, according to a former All-American football player sponsoring the measure in the Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday backed the proposal (SB 764), which also seeks to prevent people from benefiting financially from disrupting sports or entertainment events. Some lawmakers also want to take action against unruly youth-league parents and to grant immunity to players for tackling spectators who run on the field during games.
Bill sponsor Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, said his proposal is intended to stop people from making money off disrupting sports or entertainment events.“I think where we’ve seen social media, and where we’ve seen fans that want to engage in the activity that’s happening on the field, has gone a little too far,” said Simon, who was an All-American defensive tackle at Florida State University before playing eight years in the National Football League. “It’s putting players at risk. It’s putting that fan, quite honestly, at risk. And so, we have to make sure that we’re not incentivizing that behavior.”
Simon pointed to a 31-year-old South Florida man who, clad in a one-piece swimsuit advertising an adult website, ran across the field at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in the fourth quarter of the 2022 Super Bowl. The man later posted a video to Instagram bragging about his adventure, in which he was tackled by security and later charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
Under Simon’s proposal, the current fine of $1,000 would jump to $2,500. The bill also would take steps to recover any money that people make from entering areas restricted to players, coaches, officials and performers.
Simon said he also wanted to clear up “consternation” he’s heard from fans since filing the bill. “This bill does not target fans that rush the field at the end of games,” Simon added.
Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, suggested adding required community service for “parental spasms at Little League games,” as “there are a few of them.”
Simon said he’d consider the suggestion, noting that “if a parent chooses to run out, I don’t know what kind of financial benefit they gain, other than embarrassing themselves and their children.”
Simon also agreed to consider a suggestion by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, that would hold players harmless if they defend themselves from people who go on the field.
A similar bill (HB 319) is ready to go to the full House.