March 10, 2009, - 2:46 pm

Dumb: NFL Gets Homeland Security Exemption from Lawsuits

By Debbie Schlussel
On this site, I’ve repeatedly decried the litigation explosion–oodles of dumb, frivolous lawsuits and class actions that clog the system and make everything more expensive for the consumer.
And while I’m all for tort reform, I’m completely opposed to giving special exemptions to fat cat industries that continue to soak the system. I’m talking about the National Football League.
The NFL is populated by billionaire owners and multi-millionaire players. In most cases, stadiums are publicly funded by taxpayers. And even if they aren’t, taxpayers pay for the extra police that surround venues on gameday. It’s rare that the teams actually pay the city. It’s usually the city and state that end up paying–one way or another–for the venue.

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But the NFL fat cats have a lot of money. And big money brings campaign contributions and expensive lobbyists. And out of this, the NFL has eked out the SAFETY Act–Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies. It will shield them from lawsuits when they don’t provide adequate security.
First off, can we stop with the pretentious, nonsense names for all these dumb Congressional bills for special interests? Whatever happened to the days of “House Bill 392” and “Senate Resolution 453”?
Then, there’s the bill itself. When the Superbowl was here in Detroit a few years ago for Superbowl XL, the government provided 10,000 federal agents and cops to guard the game and its surrounding areas. But friends of mine–several friends of mine, actually, managed to sneak into the Big Game without tickets. They’re my friends and nice, harmless people who wanted to see a big event and couldn’t score tickets. Not saying I’m condoning this trespass, but the point is that it happened.
What if my friends were terrorists with bombs? They’d have had no problems. Not only were they not noticed going into Ford Field, but they didn’t have the search of person and bags that goes along with that.
Clearly, the NFL security wasn’t tight. And this is Detroit we’re talking about, so they should have been even stricter.
And I wrote about other gaping security holes (here and here). The official NFL hotel and headquarters for the Detroit Superbowl was in a building built on top of an empty parking lot. I parked in the lot and no-one checked me or my car. I could have blown up the entire Jefferson Avenue and Renaissance Center above me (where the NFL and fans were doing shows and gathering for parties and press conferences) if I wanted to. A door from under the parking lot was open, and it led to the inside of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. If Ahmed from Canada wanted to blow up NFL headquarters, he could’ve.
If my friends or I were terrorists, we could have harmed hundreds or perhaps thousands of people. But under this new law, the NFL is now exempt from terrorism lawsuits, so long as they use and buy equipment from companies that have sweetheart deals with the Department of Homeland Security.
It’s ridiculous and ripe for abuse. And if you are blown up because the NFL bought equipment from someone whose girlfriend or boyfriend works at ICE and rubberstamped as approved security gear, somehow the NFL is now “not at fault” even when there’s a breach because it failed to adequately guard the perimeter, as was the case at Ford Field.
Then, there’s the tiny detail of who runs NFL security. The League employs former FBI agents and other similar retired Feds to run its safety operations. You know, the same FBI that allowed 9/11 to happen and ignored its agents’ pleas to look at Zaccarias Moussaoui’s hard drive a month before the attacks. This agency full of self-important bureaucratic blowhards is hardly the place you pluck retirees from if you want your consumers and spectators safe from attack. Blackwater–now Xe–might be a better place to start. The people for whom Blackwater provided security don’t get killed. But fuhgedaboutit–the NFL sticks with the former Famous But Incompetent.
Why is it that the NFL deserves this special exemption from suit, when, say, a small or mid-sized or even big business that’s not in a glamorous field like sports has a terrorist attack against it? Why is that business left to face myriad lawsuits which may put it out of biz, when the fat cats at the NFL–Big Football–won’t be?
It’s like “Animal Farm,” in which all of the animals in the barnyard are equal, but some are more equal than others.
In this case, it’s the pigs. No, the hogs. With greedy NFL owners and players always soaking taxpayers for playing palaces and security, these guys are definitely the ones feeding at the trough.
It’s one thing to curb frivolous lawsuits. It’s entirely another to exempt an entire entertainment industry segment because they bought crony-recommended equipment, and leave the rest of American businesses holding the bag.
More:

The National Football League and dozens of other companies and organizations have won exemption from lawsuits under a post-9/11 law that prohibits them from being sued if terrorists attack a site they are protecting.
The law, called the SAFETY Act (Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies), aims to help security providers by guaranteeing they will not pay any claims that terror victims might file after an attack.
The law was created in 2002 in response to multibillion-dollar lawsuits filed after the 9/11 attacks that left companies afraid they would be sued if security equipment failed to stop terrorists.
The protection extends only to companies’ services or equipment that the Homeland Security Department has approved as being effective in anti-terrorism.
Among those with top-tier protection is the NFL, which in December received liability exemption against future claims stemming from an attack at any of the nation’s football stadiums. The law requires a court to dismiss lawsuits against companies whose products have Homeland Security’s highest reliability rating.
The NFL got the protection after the government approved the league’s nine-page stadium-security guidelines.

You’re gonna secure an entire stadium at a Superbowl with only nine pages of details? Hello . . . ?

The benefit to the NFL is “fairly obvious,” said NFL security chief Milt Ahlerich. “An attack from a terrorist organization could put us out of business.” League guidelines, developed shortly after 9/11, include digital security cameras in stadiums, quick searches on entering spectators and barriers that keep cars and trucks 100 feet from a stadium.

Oh, and here’s the KEY:

Many beneficiaries of the legal protection are large government contractors that sell equipment such as airport X-ray machines and chemical sensors.
Among the other companies are aviation giant Boeing Corp., which got the exemption for its strengthened flight deck doors on planes, and IBM, granted an exemption for its software used to more accurately verify names and identities.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the protection has led to “wider deployment of anti-terrorism technologies and services.”

Um, they should be using that technology anyway. Not to would be security malpractice.

Another class of companies on the list is given a lesser form of liability protection – they can be sued, but the law limits damages to the amount of the company’s insurance coverage.
The law requires all of the protected companies and organizations to carry terrorism insurance. The amounts vary.

Hmmm . . . why do they need to carry insurance, if they’re exempt from all lawsuits?
This whole thing is a giant form of corporate welfare. It provides a boon to insurance companies, NFL fat cats, and people who make security machines which may or may not work.
But if you get disfigured in a terrorist attack because the NFL was too concerned about bringing Michael Vick back into its employ than spending money on adequate security at a Detroit Superbowl, you’ll get bupkus. No, not Dick Butkus. Bupkus.

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3 Responses

NFL = No Financial Liability

Tempus Fugit on March 10, 2009 at 9:04 pm

In the Tampa area, the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) manages ALL the forums/stadia around the Bay area. Prior to this year’s Superbowl (during ’07 and ’08) not a SINGLE Operations/Security officer/official would return calls from a PBIED technology company. The Honda Grand Prix (St. Petersburg) wouldn’t either. Reason? They did not have protection from the potential lawsuits regarding counter-terrorism issues. Technologies such as Millimeter Wave (mmW) and Terahertz (Thz) from High Tech companies couldn’t even get in edgewise, unless they responded to a DHS RFI/RFP from ’05/’06. These antiquated “high tech” ’05/’06 items are basically pixlated images, whereas ’07/’08 tech is almost as hi-res as something out of “Total Recall.” It’s a COMPLETE lobbyist/government relations issue; it’s not who you know, it’s who you blo*. The NFL et al do NOT want ANY liabilities period. Mo’ money mo’ money.
OPAL has/had their foot in the door due to TSWIG shenanigans (insider lobbying). There is very hi-tech available to nail any and ALL contraband/potential PBIEDs etc…but again, it ain’t about who you know…
Even the CDC is seeking G-2 about hi-tech tracking of elevated body temps in an attempt to prevent potential bio incidents at/in Federal healthcare facilities. Why? To pass along the liability to the private OSD/DoD contractors etc.
…and where do alot of these hi-tech companies, which responded to the ’05/’06 RFI/RFPS receive their funding? Ear marks and Other Type of Agreements (OTA ((no bid)); little if any congressional oversight.
It’s a mad mad mad world.

SickBoy on March 10, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Anybody having flashbacks to the movie “The Sum of All Fears?”
(I did find something kind of funny in a very dark way. When you see the President being hustled out in a very hurried manner, you don’t sit there and look around. You sneak out of the crowd and run.)

cirrus1701 on March 11, 2009 at 10:56 am

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