Running onto a football field or concert stage will soon carry heftier penalties in Florida.
That’s due to legislation (HB 319), effective Oct. 1, that will make interfering with live sports and entertainment a first-degree misdemeanor.
Violators can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and a year in jail.
The measure, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Monday, applies the same penalty to people who throw objects onto a field or stage, or attempt to strike players, coaches or entertainers.
It also includes language stating that any money gained from the notoriety those interruptions generate is subject to seizure by the state. Further, a business or person that pays someone to interrupt a live game, concert or show could face a third-degree felony charge, punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and five years in prison for the first offense.
The charge would not apply to someone who merely encourages or dares someone to run onto a field.
“We have a problem in our sporting arenas and our concert venues, etcetera, where bad actors are hijacking these moments, these events, for indecent exposure and, most importantly, corrupt financial gain,” the measure’s sponsor, Monteverde Republican Rep. Taylor Yarkosky, said in a February committee hearing.
Tallahassee Republican Sen. Corey Simon, a former NFL player, sponsored its identical companion (SB 764). He told his colleagues during the committee process that there has been “a significant increase” in people disrupting live events.
“At the same time, other people and some companies have encouraged or incentivized this behavior,” he said.
HB 319 passed by a 109-3 vote in the House on March 31, with just Democratic Reps. Ashely Gantt, Michael Gottlieb and Michele Rayner-Goolsby voting “no.” It cleared the Senate 39-0 on April 11.
Gottlieb, a lawyer in private life, said he supported the bill in concept but worried the provision allowing the state to take away money a person gains from interrupting a live event could attract lawsuits. He suggested that forced forfeiture of money is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects citizens from excessive punishment.
“I think it’s going to be problematic and create litigation for this bill moving forward,” he said.
Under current state law, people who interfere with live sports or entertainment events are subject to charges of simple trespassing and fines of $500 or less. Florida has no ban for incentivizing such behavior.
Disrupting events and harassing players to gain brief notoriety are hardly new phenomena. Records of people doing so in the nude — an act called streaking — date back to 1799.
But there’s been a disturbing rise in a few less time-tested trends: people paying fans online to run onto fields and stages, fans setting up conditions so they’ll make money off the misdeed, and players and entertainers taking it upon themselves to stop them.
Recent examples include:
—Boca Raton man Yuri Andrade, who interrupted the Super Bowl in 2021 by running onto the field in a neon pink leotard. He later claimed to have done so after placing a $50,000 wager that the game would have a streaker.
—A fan running onto the field during a January 2022 NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, whose wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, knocked the man down. It was later revealed the man did so on a $1,000 TikTok bet.
—An October 2022 incident in which Bobby Wagner of the Los Angeles Rams tackled a fan in Santa Clara who was protesting for Direct Action Everywhere. The organization later filed a police report accusing Wagner and fellow Rams linebacker Takk McKinley, who helped take down the fan, of “blatant assault.”
—An incident in July 2022, when a security guard accidentally hit Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello while chasing down a fan who jumped on the stage in Canada.