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Los Gatos Man Takes Anti-Fan Violence Campaign to State Capitol

Despite still suffering from injuries due to his Dec. 19, 2011 beating at Candlestick Park, Manuel Austin has joined legislative efforts to curb unruly sportsmanship.

It’s been four months since by fans sitting in front of him and his family during a Dec. 19, 2011 San Francisco 49ers Monday night football game.

The 66-year-old still suffers from persistent headaches, hearing loss in his left ear and neck and back pain related to the beating that happened at the hands of fellow fans. He’s been seeing a pain specialist weekly and said that he’s recently experienced vomiting.

"This is someting that I live with everyday," Austin said.

Only one of the three men who attacked him, Mark Bollock of Mendocino County, was cited for the incident. The San Francisco District Attorney, Austin said, pending the completion of a San Francisco Police Department investigation due at the end of April.

Part of the problem facing the SFPD is that no independent witnesses have stepped forward to tell what went down that night.

Despite the pain and continued lack of justice, Austin hasn’t been suffering in silence. , he's been busy with his nonprofit website, endfanviolence.com, which he started to rid arenas of what he calls the “wild West mentality” that prevails at professional sporting events.

He is currently working on registering 50,000 people to the website.

“I want to end fan violence everywhere in the world,” he said. “At basketball games, soccer games … we don’t need it. We’d like people to register and be part of an organization that says I am committed to ending fan violence and I will not tolerate it.”

Austin has also taken his movement to the state Capitol. On April 17, Austin and his wife, Linda, testified before a subcommittee of the Assembly's Committee on Public Safety in support of AB 2464, a bill that would have made the consequences for committing fan-on-fan violence much more punitive.

“Nobody in professional football is doing anything about fan violence,” Austin said about why he testified. “The NFL is a $10 billion-a-year business so they want to leave it the status quo. I’m going to do whatever I can to keep people safe. I was 30 seconds away from being dead, so I’m actively involved.”

Despite Austin’s testimony, the bill, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) did not pass in its first iteration. Gatto said that, with the help of people like Austin, he hopes to one day put a stop to violence in the stands.

“We were trying to give the penalties for fan violence some teeth,” Gatto said. “A lot of people have dealt with these types of things who aren’t able to tell their story. Manuel is very articulate and passionate about these issues.”

The subcommittee, Gatto said, wanted to amend the bill’s more stringent provisions, namely creating a ban list for repeat offenders, establishing a reward fund so that local police departments wouldn’t have to pay for one and enhancing the penalties for perpetrators.

Gatto reintroducted the bill April 24, taking out every provision, except for one that would require stadiums to post signage at entryways, in parking lots and elsewhere with security numbers to call in case of an emergency.

The bill passed this time, has since been approved by a subcommittee of the Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media and is now in appropriations. If it gets the OK here, it will go before the Assembly for a vote.

Austin said that since going to Sacramento, he's been in contact with other state legislatures about the need for laws to protect fans from other fans and has gotten some encouraging feedback from representatives on both sides of the aisle. He's also been in contact with Congressman Mike Honda about crafting federal legislation.

“Anything is better than nothing,” Austin said of the redesigned AB 2464. “But we do need to see more security, more control of alcohol and drugs and less partisanship. Partisanship in government weighs in too much and takes away from what is good for the people.”

Jim Thrall May 01, 2012 at 05:38 PM
This is a really small step and should be a no-brainer to pass. Any reasonable sports owner shoul dhave positive affirmations and messages at their venue anyway. I only think this can be the start of a good thing. There are few levers that a legislature can pull. The owners and their insurance companies should work out strategic plans to reduce and eliminate such awful behavior including things like reward pools for bystanders to report real threats to the peace in the stands. Its such a shame that nobody came forward after this incident. But it IS SFPD, after all, and just by looking at their track record on solving murder cases alone, this is unsurprising.
Jesse Ducker May 01, 2012 at 06:21 PM
If nothing else, it's good to see Austin trying to build something positive out of such a horrible and traumatic episode in his life. The should be a no-brainer to pass. And I find it very sad that SFPD has only cited one person in this whole episode. Not surprised, but still disappointed.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh May 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Sporting events and venues should be a safe place for everyone to enjoy the game. I'm not sure why the team owners are allowing this to go on for so long. If people do not feel safe, they will stop bringing their familes to the games.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz May 01, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Sport fans tend to get out of hand once their drink too much alcohol. So maybe if there was a limit. Things might be different.
Dyan Chan May 01, 2012 at 07:24 PM
We need to get some balance--remember "healthy competition"?
Don Russell May 01, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Hope there will be some just resolve.
ES May 01, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Good for Mr. Austen for taking his case to Sacramento and D.C.!
Jennifer Croll May 02, 2012 at 04:24 AM
kuddos
Brian Hickman May 02, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Where are the everyday heroes when things like this are happening? We need to encourage citizens to not sit idly by and let this happen. Would you let someone get beat up on the seat next to you in a plane? If not there, then why let it happen in a stadium? Those that are too small to intervene themselves could still get help from security. I thought 9/11 ended the era of passive bystanding. Anyway, Kuddos to Mr. Austin for turning a horrific experience into a noble cause.

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