Joel Mowbray

Less than a month after a 21-year-old blew himself up just outside a packed football stadium in Oklahoma, a circuit court judge in Florida has granted the American Civil Liberties Union a surprise victory by issuing a preliminary injunction preventing searches at Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ games.

Spurred to action by the July 7 London bombings, the NFL this August mandated that all teams begin “pat-down” searches of ticket holders starting on September 25.  Many teams had been doing so since 9/11, though the Bucs had not.  The timing of the policy’s implementation turned out to be, at the least, eerie.

Less than a week after the NFL began league-wide pat-downs, college student Joel Hinrichs III blew himself up roughly 100 yards outside the University of Oklahoma football stadium, which was overflowing with some 84,000 fans.  While it is not clear whether he intended to commit a terrorist attack, the mere fact that he had tried to purchase, only days earlier, ammonium nitrate—which was used by Timothy McVeigh in 1996—would seem to show that the NFL was acting with reasonable caution.

With that backdrop, high school civics teacher and Bucs’ season ticket holder Gordon Johnston—backed by the Florida ACLU—filed suit against the Bucs on October 13, arguing that “suspicionless” searches by stadium security would violate his constitutional rights.

Employing laughably flawed logic, Johnston, among other things, argued, “Why do I need to lose my rights to go to a game?  It’s humiliating.  If I did that to my students do you know what would happen to me?” 

The difference, of course, is that high school classrooms, as yet, are not seen as attractive targets for terrorists.  And each person in his class is almost certainly a known quantity, which obviously cannot be said about each of the tens of thousands who attend any given football game.

As paraphrased by the Associated Press, the high school civics teacher further argued, “Security would be more effective if staff spent more time watching ticket holders and less time touching them.”  Why is it, then, that even highly trained Israeli security and military personnel have not always been able to visually detect the presence of suicide vests underneath bombers’ clothes?

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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