Let’s talk about sex. Just for a minute. Just for as long as it took for the NFL to earn its most flagrant instance of unsportsmanlike conduct yet, which cost a Qualcomm Stadium event staff worker his job.
The story comes from one woman, who says she arrived at last weekend’s Chargers game well ahead of kickoff and filed into a row of field-level seats off an end zone corner with friends and family, some of whom were quite young. While observing a bank of cheerleaders perform a routine just below, she noticed a young man covered from head to waist in red garb bearing the logo of a San Diego-based private security firm called Elite Services. Weirdly, he seemed suspicious.
It wasn’t the man’s posture—facing the crowd, facing her, facing the cheerleaders—that disturbed her. It was the furtive glances in the cheerleaders’ direction, the fact that he had let a furious hand disappear into his trousers. As for what exactly it was doing there, this being a family publication, let’s say the man was engaged in a personal act of self-fulfillment. Still, you should know that San Diego’s buttoned-up fourth estaters were far more direct.
How could they resist? The woman had caught the whole scene on tape and dropped the same m-word with such conviction while describing the video, which she posted to Facebook. It was the last resort, she wrote, after her initial complaints to Elite Services and the Chargers were ignored.
After the story whipped around the web tens of thousands of times, Elite finally announced earlier this week that the offending guard had been fired—but not before noting that the guy had been thoroughly vetted. “There was nothing in the screening process that would indicate this type of conduct was foreseeable,” the company said in a statement.
Elite Services would say some stuff like that. (An event staffer’s job is to turn their back to the obvious, after all.) But you know better. Five years ago we learned of the two Cowboys fans who christened the team’s billion-dollar stadium with a Monday night bathroom sex romp. Just this October we saw a Patriots drive interrupted when a fan hurled a dildo onto the field. (How did he sneak it in? “I wore two pairs of pants,” he explained.) Just a few weeks ago we heard the 911 call a Georgia QuikTrip clerk placed after Jamal Anderson—the former Pro Bowl running back of “Dirty Bird” fame—had, well, exposed himself. And that’s just a sampling of the reports. All things considered, the NFL has never seemed more debauched.
How did a game that people once dressed up to watch get so, um, casual? It could be the country we live in—a far more relaxed place, socially speaking, than it was when the NFL opened shop almost a century ago. (Imagine Woodrow Wilson engaging in “locker room banter”.) It could be the Internet Age—a time when personal nudes are the new trading cards and athletes, whether asked or not, don’t hesitate to show their hands.
Or it could be that the league has built itself into an American institution by selling sex and objectifying women. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so vulgar if the NFL didn’t market itself so intensely to children. Incidents like the one that happened last week at Qualcomm probably happen to cheerleaders all the time. We may not hear from them more often because they’d risk losing their jobs by speaking out.
Elite’s sacked stadium worker will never patrol another NFL sideline—especially with the prospect of criminal charges hanging over him now. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be copycat behavior, or worse. It’s up to you, the fan, to remain as vigilant as our heroine in San Diego. So as you enjoy the balance of this NFL season, remember: If you see something, say something. It’ll only take a minute.