This is another one of those stories that makes my blood boil…
As newspaper people we run into this issue all the time. We respond to the scene of an accident, fire, crime, whatever and the issue of whether or not we’re allowed to be there comes into question. Ultimately, though, it’s pretty simple: public property we’re good, private property, we’re allowed to get kicked out or off.
We oblige when we’re told to get off someone’s property. We know the law and we don’t try and make trouble. However there will always be trouble when someone tries to order us off of public street, sidewalk, park, etc. We have the right to be there.
My friend Stu Bykofsky of the Daily News in Philly came across a real gem though. Here’s a link to his story: http://bit.ly/OjONDm
It turns out that a guy from South Philly was walking past the Eagles Novacare practice facility and figured he’d get a peek at the team practicing. A private security guard saw what he was doing and told him to move. Michael Henkel questioned why he had to move off of a public sidewalk. Evidently words were exchanged and a Philly cop responded to the scene and took a report.
Stu reports that the “54-year-old Henkel listened up because he is a law-abiding citizen. He better be – he supervises writ-servers for Philadelphia’s Family Court.”
According to Stu, Henkel says many people peer through the bars of the fence to watch the team and that Henkel loves the Eagles. He has an official team jersey worth $350. He tailgates and goes to lots of games.
“He comes to Pattison (Avenue) to play peek-a-boo because it brings back ‘the kid in you,’ he says. ‘You are peering through the bushes, they are 20 to 30 feet away, you hear the line coaches yelling to the players.’”
Stu reports that the police agree with Henkel “up to a point.”
Says Stu’s story:
A security guard does drive around in a golf cart and shoos people away, Campione says, but only if they are standing on the grass between the sidewalk and the fence. “The grass strip is maintained by the Eagles so the presumption is that it is theirs,” he says.
A logical presumption, but is it correct? Is the grass strip between the fence and the sidewalk public or private property?
Stu’s detective work later reveals that the area outside the fence is public property.
Not so fast, says Eagles vice president of communications Rob Zeiger.
“Part of our agreement with neighbors, part of our lease with city, is that we aren’t supposed to be creating distractions,” which is what a huddle of Eagles fans would be, Zeiger says.
Thwarting a “distraction” overrules what the city’s own maps show as public property? Doesn’t seem right to me.
To frustrate sneak-peekers, how about wrapping the field with something opaque, I ask Zeiger.
“Our current setup has kept everyone happy for more than a decade,” he says, according to Stu.
So the fans pay zillions of dollars to this team, over the years their tax dollars have helped build stadiums, on and on and the team is worried that a 54-year-old South Philly guy is going to pick up some new blitzing schemes and sell them on the Web? Or he’s calling the Giants or Cowboys to tip them off? C’mon.
This may seem trivial to some people but to me it’s arrogance and ignorance to the extreme. It’s precisely why the little guys hate the big guys. Why the guy working for eight bucks an hour hates people like Jeff Lurie or any of the other owners – or millionaires in general.
Henkel poses no threat to the Eagles. Zero. Peeking through the fence for a few minutes means nothing to anyone – but Henkel. If he can get a peek at the guys crunching one another in pads it’s nothing more than beer drinking stories later the same night. It’s a chance to brag that he saw Mike Vick throw a bomb or saw Trent Cole sandwich one of the running backs or that the offense got into it with the defense. Threatening and sensitive stuff, eh?
This whole notion of control of public space has gotten way out of control. Especially with the Eagles. Their own players chewed out a couple of guys who had signs criticizing the team. They told them to beat it. Of course they later apologized. But the damage was done.
I believe the Eagles owe Henkel a huge apology. They need to shower him with gifts and trinkets to show that they understand the little guy. That they appreciate the hard work he does so he can afford to go to one of their games – which is no easy thing.
But they won’t. After all this is the same team that fired a disabled guy for posting on social media his personal thoughts when the Eagles let Brian Dawkins walk.
It’s an infectious attitude among sports millionaires. And the sad part is that it’s not likely to ever change.
— Andy Hachadorian