NJSEA Abuse v. ESC: Binkley’s StoryBy: Dave Martinez | July 22nd, 2008
NJSEA – The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority – serves as facility management and security firm for Giants Stadium, current home of the Red Bulls. Giants Stadium is a huge venue, used for all forms of entertainment, which can seat upwards of 70,000 people. I am talking music festivals, American Football, concerts, gatherings – you name it, they have seen and done that.
Then what makes soccer so different?
In the latest of a long line of infractions (like this one or this one), NJSEA security guards once again collided with the clubs largest and oldest supporters group, the ESC (Empire Supporters Club). The result? Multiple lifetime bans. Were some deserved? Probably. Were they all? Probably not.
One story that has struck a strong chord with Red Bull supporters was the Lifetime Ban given to 2006 Fan of the Year and season ticket holder, Thomas Binkley. Binkley, or “Binks” as he is referred to, is an instrumental part of the Red Bull fans support structure. He organizes road trips, is a long time member of the ESC, and has supported the team through years of mediocrity and ownership changes – all from his home in Virginia! Yes, he actually travels down to every home game to take in the action, from deep in the heart of enemy (DC) territory.
I spoke to Binks about the situation. Here is his take on the events that took place:
What happened? What were you accused of?
I got into a verbal altercation with a woman and her husband after they asked me not to swear at the field. I took offense to this and used choice words to clearly explain that I was not going to be responsible for shielding her children’s ears. The woman yanked her kid up out of the chair and ran for the nearest usher. Her husband started to say something to me and I cut him off and asked how much he bought his tickets for on eBay and what right they had to tell me, a five year season ticket holder how to behave in environment that I choose to be apart of week in, week out. All of this while our ESC was yelling MetroBoys ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. I pointed at them and said they voted for me to be fan of the year, how would they feel about this?
I was not going to treat their day to an MLS game as a queue for the teacups at Disneyland. I’m not at all happy with the fact that those that go to games on the regular are now being asked to cater to those that show up to see David Beckham and the other guys from Los Angeles.
I was accused of using profanity and making a threat. I did use profane language but at no time did I make a threat.
Do you feel that security knew of you being the Fan of the Year? Could that have escalated things?
I was talking about the fact that I was a season ticket holder, and pointed at 101 and said that you guys voted for me as fan of the year as the woman went to the usher to get assistance. I knew it was going to be interesting to see how this was resolved as I didn’t expect any special treatment from the NJSEA security. Because it was a family versus myself, I thought I would be relocated to another seat or something along those lines. But after seeing 6 yellow shirted security personnel I wasn’t as sure of the outcome. They were polite and courteous to me, but there was no interest in my side of what happened. It was clear to me that they had an account from the woman or usher and that was enough for them. I offered to move to another area or leave, but they made it clear that they had already made a determination on what to do with me and that was to take me downstairs and have me ejected/banned for life.
On the way downstairs I did talk to the guys about it and how funny I thought it was that I was going to be ejected and I was fan of the year at one point. I knew the end of this would be with me ejected, never to return to Giants Stadium to see the Soccer at the Meadowlands again.
What was the NJSEA’s final verdict as a result of your alleged actions?
I was given an ejection form with a cause for ejection being improper behavior. It states that I am to mail a request for review to the Vice President of Security for a review of events and that a determination will be made about reinstating me. Unitil I am reinstated I be on any NJSEA owned/managed property without facing risk of arrest for trespassing.
What was the response from Red Bull?
I called Red Bull about this on Monday morning and spoke with someone that handles season tickets. They told me that they were already aware of this and that Andrew LaFiosca would be calling me back later but he was in a meeting. I received a call from Tim Sinclair my season ticket rep around 3 and we spoke about what had happened at length. I stated to him that NJSEA’s treatment of this situation does not change my interest in supporting Red Bull and that I was clear that this wasn’t something that they could change as NJSEA is a vertically aligned organization with unparalleled amounts of unchecked power.
In your opinion, is the ESC specifically targeted by the yellow shirt security personnel of NJSEA?
Yes. There is no question.
They use the same security personnel week in, week out. There have been no changes in their behavior over time and they continue to be rude and antagonize as video has shown from after Saturday’s game. Those that are involved seem to target the same group of core individuals first, and anyone that asks questions or gets in their way second. All of this while crowding through already cramped area to manhandle whoever they think is a problem.
There’s been countless times that they’ve gotten the wrong person for doing something and they know it. I’ve always thought that if you’re in 101 you’ve got a 50/50 shot of being taken downstairs and ejected for just being there. Many times there is no rhyme or reason for the choices that they make and it seems more like they are culling the herd rather than enforcing any sort of policy or insuring safety. The near riot that they caused this past weekend demonstrates that they are untrained to deal with a standing section, have no customer service skills, and no background in crowd management, and are not answerable to any sort of civillian review board for their actions.
We are at a point where NJSEA has proven again that they will risk safety of it’s patrons and their overall experience to get that one person that caused an offense. It is time for the state police to manage the section with the assistance of senior ESC officials that can work to manage problems before there is a need to eject people. If the status quo is maintained I sincerely fear that things will get worse and people will be injured.
As a vital part of the ESC structure, and a season ticket holder, what would you like to see get done to change not only the environment for the ESC but your own Lifetime Ban as well?
I’m not sure on the word vital, but I am a member and a vocal one.
I personally wouldn’t change anything about ESC at this time. I would say that if there was some means of getting another organization to perform security that would be very helpful. The here one day, banned for life the next with the possibility of criminal charges needs to be addressed with a civillian (meaning people from the community that are not civil servants already) review board that can look at NJSEA video from events that transpire in the section. This board would serve as a means to investigate abuse, neglect, and insuring the proper penalties for those that are ejected.
Having security performed by the state police advising those in ESC on who to warn would also be a positive step.
In terms of my own ban, I’m confident that I’ll be going to games again soon. The confidence isn’t based on anything more than common sense. Banning someone for life over the use of profanity and a disagreement is a penalty that doesn’t equal the offense. If you think it’s offensive at all.
Internally we’re doing quite a bit right now to work on organizational direction of the club. In the past five years I’ve been a member this year has been one of the best years to be a member. We’ve got many creative people that to contribute to making the section that much more visual with more banners and streamers. Some are investigating ways to work as ESC members to to do fund raisers for other great causes and another group of people have taken on feeding the masses in our pregame tailgate, and even more people are taking it upon themselves to organize road trips and step up to contribute in a manner that they think will be helpful.
There isn’t a single thing I would change at this point. I’d just get out of the way and continue to encourage this by helping or contributing. Everyone has been doing a great job this year and they should all be proud of what they are contributing to.
Banned for life for swearing. Is this another instance of power abuse by the NJSEA? Or is the use of profanity in any game reason enough to cast away a season ticket holder of 5 years? Share your thoughts with us.