Friday, August 09, 2002

Browns ban sales of plastic bottles of beer

AP Sports Writer

        CLEVELAND — NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was among the more than 10,000 people who watched the Cleveland Browns practice at their stadium Thursday.

        During the evening walkthrough, they got to see Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and the other Browns up close in a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season.

        It was just like any NFL Sunday. Fans even got to drink beer — in cups.

        In the aftermath of their game last Dec. 16, when thousands of plastic bottles — some filled with beer — were thrown on the field by fans angry about an overturned call, the Browns have changed some of their policies concerning the sale of alcohol.

        One is that the team will no longer sell the 20-ounce bottles of beer that became missiles in the hands of some fans during the 2001 home finale.

        “We felt that this was the safest decision,” Browns president Carmen Policy said. “We felt if we continued to distribute beer in plastic bottles, there would have not been another incident. But the decision was to play it safe.”

        Tagliabue said the league did a thorough review following the near riot which broke out after game officials used instant replay to overturn a call in the final two minutes of the game against Jacksonville.

        The league has asked teams to review their policies concerning beer sales, Tagliabue said. The NFL isn't going to ban the sale of bottled beer, but Tagliabue said several other teams have joined the Browns in no longer selling beer in plastic containers.

        Policy said the club will also cut off beer sales following the third quarter, and will only allow fans to purchase two beers at a time. Last year, they could buy four at once.

        However, water and soda will continue to be sold in plastic bottles at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

        Tagliabue said there is only so much he can do.

        “I don't run concessions stands or work as an usher or sell beer,” Tagliabue said. “My job is to look at 32 different teams in 31 different stadiums and put strong policies in place.

        “We need to make it clearer to the fans who are going to be boorish or offending or destructive that their tickets are going to be revoked. That's the biggest deterrent.”

        Tagliabue attended one Browns home game last season, but it wasn't the Jacksonville game, which turned ugly with 1:08 left.

        The Browns, still in playoff contention, were driving for a go-ahead touchdown and had a first down at Jacksonville's 9-yard line when officials stopped the clock to review a fourth-down catch by wide receiver Quincy Morgan.

        After several hectic minutes, referee Terry McAulay announced that the call had been overturned.

        Fans immediately pelted the field with bottles and other debris, and McAulay announced over his microphone that the game was over and ordered the teams off the field.

        As players, coaches and the officials ran off they came under a barrage of thrown objects.

        Tagliabue, who was watching the incident unfold on TV, ordered the teams to go back out and finish the game despite fans in the stands armed with bottles to throw.

        Tagliabue said miscommunication between game officials and stadium security was the biggest reason the situation deteriorated. But if a similar incident were to happen again, Tagliabue said he wouldn't hesitate sending players and officials back out.

        “I don't have any regrets,” he said. “I'm the one who sent them back on the field, and that's our policy. There was misunderstanding with the officials about their authority to bring the game to an end prematurely.

        “I felt then and feel now that we have to stick with our policies. You can't get into the business of making ad hoc judgments.”


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