February 6, 2004. A 6-foot-6 Arizona high school basketball player dunked on a breakaway – climaxing a big rivalry win – the night before he turned 18. Fans stormed the court, pushing him to the ground and leaving him paralyzed on the right side.
October 22, 2005. The University of Minnesota-Morris defeated Crown College in its homecoming football game. Two dozen students leaped on a goal post, rocking it to the ground and killing a 20-year-old Minnesota-Morris student.
December 3, 2011. Oklahoma State defeated its archrival Oklahoma, 44-10, in an NCAA college football game. Thousands of fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts, leaving at least 13 people injured. It took police 45 minutes to clear fans from the field.
These are just a few events that might have been prevented with proper crowd control and an experienced public-address announcer.
Many state associations, as well as the NFHS and the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers (NASPAA), provide expectations/guidelines to those announcing at sporting events. However, some announcers may not fully understand just how valuable those instructions are.
Brad Rumble, executive director of NASPAA, says that many P.A. announcers are not always given guidelines and some may not entirely understand that their role is to provide information in a professional and timely manner and not to entertain.
“The NASPAA has said many times that people attend high school events to watch student-athletes compete, which is the entertainment. They don’t come to listen to a P.A. announcer, who thinks he or she is the entertainment. Making clever remarks, being loud and over the top or being a homer, not only undermines the P.A. announcer’s credibility, but does nothing to promote good sportsmanship and a positive environment, which are key in affecting crowd control,” Rumble said.
The NASPAA provides guidelines to positively affect crowd control by using its Code of Conduct. Rumble believes that sufficient crowd control can easily be accomplished right from the beginning with the opening announcement at a sporting event. He said if those in attendance know that security is in place, it can help deter issues.
The NASPAA suggests that P.A. announcers make an announcement before the contest, at halftime and before the event ends regarding rushing the court or field. If someone is injured, Rumble says, the school could claim that its P.A. announcer warned fans by making an announcement to stay off the court or field.
Rumble admits that getting fans to pay attention is difficult, but he suggests that an announcement on sportsmanship preceding the National Anthem could ultimately prevent something unruly or tragic from happening. Since everyone is anticipating that the National Anthem is going to be played, those in attendance will be solely focused on the P.A. announcer, resulting in more listeners than watchers. If, however, fans do become unruly during the event, the P.A. announcer should not make a threatening announcement, but be calm and concise.
“The P.A. announcer should say something to the effect, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, in the interest of player safety, your cooperation in not throwing items onto the court or field would be appreciated,’” Rumble said. “If the first announcement doesn’t work, then a second announcement should be made indicating that the team could be penalized if items continue to be thrown or the event will be suspended.”
Depending on how the school has chosen to handle the situation, if the act did not stop, the P.A. announcer could notify fans that throwing items onto the field or court are terms for immediate removal from the property. As stated in the NASPAA Code of Conduct, announcers should follow the approved guidelines, expectations and polices, such as emergency procedures, provided by the host facility and administration.
Overall, P.A. announcers should understand that they can have an influence on the crowd – positively or negatively – and should use their roles to promote good sportsmanship in order to create a positive and safe environment for all.
Maddie Koss, a 2016 summer intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department, is a senior sports media major at Butler University.