West Valley Resident 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 Los Gatos resident 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 isle. 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.”


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