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NFL fan code of conduct at center of court case

SAN DIEGO – City Attorney Jan Goldsmith believes the NFL has a right to enforce its code of conduct, including ejecting fans for making obscene gestures and using foul language.

A criminal defense attorney disagrees, saying the code of conduct is unenforceable.

At a hearing set for Friday, attorney Mary Frances Prevost will ask San Diego Superior Court Judge Gale Kaneshiro to clear the arrest record of Jason Ensign. Last month, Kaneshiro threw out battery charges against Ensign, a Kansas City fan who was detained by private security guards during a Chiefs-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium in 2009.

While Goldsmith can’t appeal Kaneshiro’s earlier decision, he can appeal if the judge grants Ensign’s motion. Goldsmith said he is asking the judge to deny the motion to “send a message” about fan behavior.

The NFL has filed an affidavit supporting Goldsmith’s view.

Security guards tried to remove Ensign because they said he was yelling obscenities and flipping his middle finger at other fans. Goldsmith charged Ensign with misdemeanor battery for punching and biting a security guard. Kaneshiro ruled there was no justification for removing the fan because he had a First Amendment right to engage in obscenities and a right to defend himself.

Prevost said the code of conduct is a suggestion, not an order.

Goldsmith disagrees, saying private entities have the right to remove unruly customers.

“If somebody stood up at an opera and gave everybody the finger or started saying obscenities, they would be ushered out,” Goldsmith said. “They don’t have the right to beat up the fellow who ushers them out.”