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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Appeals Court Rules Bucs Can Resume Fan Pat-Downs

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Published:   |   Updated: May 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM
TAMPA -

Fans attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at Raymond James Stadium could have to undergo pat-down searches in less than three weeks.

For almost three years, the stadium has been the only one in the NFL where fans aren't subjected to the searches. But on Monday, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overruled one of its judges who last week upheld an injunction delaying the searches.

Monday's ruling by the appeals judges ordered a lower federal court to lift the injunction, meaning the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium, is free to once again use the pat-down searches.

"The pat-downs can go forward," said Rick Zabak, attorney for the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium.

The next home game for the Buccaneers is Sunday, when the team hosts the Green Bay Packers. Logistically, that's too soon to begin the searches, said Tampa Sports Authority spokeswoman Barbara Casey.

"We have a lot of people we need to contact to make this happen," Casey said. "We had been knowing it was going to happen, but we needed a little more lead time" to be ready for Sunday's game.

The earliest the searches could begin would be at the Oct. 12 game between the Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers, Casey said.

Gordon Johnston, the high school government teacher whose lawsuit stopped the pat-downs three years ago, declined to comment.

The National Football League started requiring the pat-downs for all NFL games in August 2005. Johnston said the searches violated the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures and filed suit after the second game of the 2005 season.

The 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Tampa ordered an injunction stopping the searches Nov. 2, 2005.

In ruling against Johnston, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said he knew about the NFL search policy but had consented to the searches when he allowed himself to be patted down.

Johnston, a Buccaneers season ticket holder, has continued to attend the games while his lawsuit has bounced back and forth in the court system.


Mike Salinero can be reached at msalinero@tampatrib.com or (813) 259-8303.

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