Several of our contributors were present at the CWS Clemson/Oklahoma game last night. At approximately 10:00 p.m. fans were told that the game was suspended because of lightning in the area. Many folks began to leave although they were given no further information from the announcer. Others stayed around either under the covered grandstand or in the concourse waiting for more information or to see if the game would be resumed. It was more than 30 minutes later when the announcement was made during a downpour and a windstorm with close and frequent lightning strikes that the game would be postponed.
Because of the wind, lightning and torrential downpour many fans lingered in the stands and in the concourse waiting for abatement of the weather. Many delayed leaving both then and originally because of the difficulty of getting some 23,000 fans through the 'cattle-shoot' exits created by the ‘enfencement’ of the complex by those that sought the Homeland Security grant because it was available.
For those fans, hoping to wait out the passing of the storm they were ‘ordered’ by Omaha Police and CWS employees to “leave the building now” shortly after the postponement announcement. There was no empathy for those folks not dressed to go out in the weather. There was no empathy for those too old to easily walk out in the weather. There was no empathy for those in wheel chairs and with other disabilities that were simply herded out of the stadium like cattle. There was no regard for any of the 23,000 plus fans safety. There was no Omaha politeness or hospitality.
The actions of all of those mentioned in the first paragraph constituted the reckless endangerment of those attending the game. Here are our thoughts:
- The CWS has done a horrendous job of dealing with lightning and weather issues throughout the series. Sunday, in a much delayed game, the CWS decision makers chose not to avoid lightning in the area in order to finish its last game. While that game was being concluded there were lightning strikes well within 8 miles and there was in fact an ongoing lightning storm as fans and players remained on the field and in the stands.
- Last night the CWS decision makers could have easily announced prior to postponing the game that a severe storm was on its way which would likely postpone or delay the game. Fans with concerns about the severe thunderstorm onslaught could have begun a much more orderly evacuation of the stadium. We’re sure the CWS decision makers knew the storm was coming and we’d assert that they acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the fans and players by not informing them of the approaching storm.
- Once the storm was in full force remaining fans were TOLD TO GET OUT OF THE BUILDING. They were yelled at by Omaha Police and CWS employees. Not only did their actions constitute further disregard for the safety of the fans but it was a totally embarrassing display of impoliteness by those charged with making the CWS a fan-centered, safe experience.
Having observed the above our contributors would suggest:
- The CWS apologize for its treatment of fans last night.
- The CWS establish a consistent approach to dealing with weather issues that provides fans and players appropriate warning of oncoming weather events rather than waiting until they occur.
- That Police Chief Alex Hayes and the Mayor of Omaha, Jim Suttle and the Omaha Parks Department apologize for the inappropriate treatment of fans and visitors who were yelled as they were herded like cattle out of the stadium into a dangerous weather event.
Last night was not a good night for Omaha’s image with its constituents and for its image with those fans that come from across the country to support their teams. It was an embarrassing night for the management of the CWS. Most important, it represented a total disregard for the safety of those that the CWS, the City and its law enforcement are charged with protecting.
Shame on all of you. Citizens and fans deserve better. They deserve your commitment to take action to better protect them and their interests. They deserve your apology.