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You Can't Take Pictures Here (Cont'd): Redskins Edition

The Washington Redskins haven't invoked national security to justify their latest efforts to control what fans do at home games--but stand by, that may yet come.

Whether it's a developer in downtown Silver Spring or a secretive federal agency operating out of an Arlington office building, it's become all the rage for property owners to confiscate cameras, force innocent passersby to erase photos, and generally ban photography in places that have always been open to all.

But while we all know how hard it's become to take a family snapshot in downtown Washington or near any government building, you'd think a football fan would still be free to take a snap at a sports event. You'd be wrong. Check out what happened to a University of Maryland student who went with some friends to take in the Redskins' home opener at the House That Jack Kent Cooke Built.

Reza Farhoodi, 20, was sitting with two friends in Section 341 of the club level in the second quarter of the Skins-Dolphins game--in the same seats he had enjoyed several times previously--when two security officers approached, removed the young man from his seat and took him to the concourse, where they questioned him about his camera.

"'Who do you work for? Why do you have this camera? Do you have any credentials with you?" the officers asked, according to Farhoodi, who told the security men that he had brought his personal SLR camera to get some pics of himself and his friends at the game--with no journalistic or business connection and no intent of selling any images. The security guards out at the entrance to the stadium had seen Farhoodi's camera and waved him right on in, just as they had several times in the past, without any problem.

Now, Farhoodi says, the officers inside the stadium told him it is forbidden to have any camera in the club level "except for the tiny ones," which the student took to mean the little point-and-shoot digital camera "with zooms so minuscule that there'd be no point in taking pictures with them." Farhoodi's traditional SLR camera was equipped with a zoom lens.

The fan was escorted to Guest Services, where his camera and camera bag were taken from him for pick-up at the end of the game.

When Farhoodi returned to his seat, other fans were appalled to learn that his camera had been confiscated and that ordinary fans were now not permitted to take pictures of the game.

After the game, Farhoodi got his camera back and spoke to a Guest Services representative who defended the security officers' actions and reminded the fan that not only were "professional" cameras not permitted in the stadium, but signs outside alerted fans that cameras would not be allowed inside.

Farhoodi went straight out to those signs and sent me pictures of them: They say not a word about cameras.

On his way out, Farhoodi saw at least two other fans carrying SLR "professional" cameras.

Farhoodi says he's disappointed by the team's policy and actions. He says: "I went to watch a Redskins game and take casual pictures for my own personal use, and ended up being embarrassed in front of everyone around me because of my supposedly disbarred camera, which ended up detracting from my enjoyment of the game."

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson did not respond to telephone and email requests for information or comment on the incident or the team's policy.

The Redskins have led the league in developing ways to do end runs around the commercial news media and to assert control over coverage of their team in one medium after another. In addition to launching their own radio stations and owning and producing their own TV shows, the Redskins have aggressively criticized outside media organizations that provide independent coverage of the team. And the team is a pioneer in creating fan communities on its own web site.

Oddly enough, the Redskins' site includes extensive galleries of photos and video shot by fans at games. So it's pretty clear that not all cameras are banned and that the team owners don't object to some degree of fan photography. But Farhoodi's experience indicates that something--whether it's security paranoia or, more likely, a deep and pervasive hostility toward outside media not controlled by the Redskins--is driving guards to enforce some unstated rule barring some kind of photography.

Has anyone else had such troubles at the stadium?

By Marc Fisher |  September 18, 2007; 7:50 AM ET
Previous: Jim Moran's Tiresome Attack/Apology Routine | Next: Maryland's Gay Marriage Ruling: Can You Spell Confused?

Comments

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Just another detail that goes against the security guards' policy is the distinction between amateur and professional SLRs.

Posted by: Stephen Braunlich | September 18, 2007 8:37 AM

It could be a concern over the spying that went on with Bill Belichek. The league just fined a coach and docked a team a first round pick for having camera's pointed at the opposing teams sidelines and the 'Skins could have been worried about similar penalties.

Posted by: Jonathan | September 18, 2007 8:48 AM

It's obvious why this guy was targeted. His name is clearly Iranian; the Redskins rent-a-thugs need to keep their eyes on those swarthy brown people. Pathetic.

Posted by: John | September 18, 2007 8:49 AM

It's obvious why this guy was targeted. His name is clearly Iranian; the Redskins rent-a-thugs need to keep their eyes on those swarthy brown people. Pathetic.

Posted by: John | September 18, 2007 8:51 AM

Marc, really, this is pathetic. You had a wonderful set of comments on your blog yesterday. People were questioning you as to why you characterized Moran's latest criticism of AIPAC as anti-semitic. They made lots of good points about the episode and many insisted that such criticism was not actually anti-semitic (even if Moran has had a past episode that could be classified as anti-semitic).

Yet, today, you can't even take the time to explain yesterday's column. Frankly, without a defense of your column, you just seem to be intent on smearing Jim Moran, regardless of the truth. Moran may or may not be a good guy, but you're no better for engaging in a smear campaign. If he really is a bad guy, then you can criticize him without resorting to the same exaggeration and smears you claim he does.

Posted by: Bryan | September 18, 2007 9:01 AM

This is another example of the kind of "nonsense" (hard to find a word to use here that's suitable for a newspaper) that is so typical of the way Snyder manages the Redskins. And it's why I am very happy not to be a Redskins fan.

Posted by: Dan | September 18, 2007 9:14 AM

Just another reason, as if one is needed, to hate that greedy midget Snyder.

Posted by: Mr. Playa | September 18, 2007 9:33 AM

I always was under the impression that cameras were not allowed at professional football games. While I have no love for Dan, I don't see this as anything shocking, or any attempt by Dan to "assert control", make money, or any other unsavory act. Sorry.

Posted by: Rock | September 18, 2007 9:37 AM

I have no trouble with this policy. Come on, Marc, this is nothing like a public area; it's a professional football stadium. The team makes a lot (a lot!) of money from people coming there AND from managing the images and sounds of the game. I completely understand the team wanting to be sure that no "high quality" pictures are taken where they do not get a piece of the action (control or money).

I am a democrat-voting liberal (whose never been to FedEx field for a Redskins game and hasn't watched a full game on TV in years) and I am total agreement with the Redskins on this.

Posted by: josey | September 18, 2007 9:40 AM

What part of being at a private facility (FedUp Field) don't you understand Marc? The stadium is not public property therefore the owner of the private facility had the right to allow or disallow the taking of photos. Why did you leave such a major detail about the stadium being private property out of your article? Oh that's right, it didn't help your weak argument. How convenient and unethical of you.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 9:51 AM

............wow, people defending Dan Synder for being a money-grubbing putz. That's new. Hasseling peopel over taking photos of a football game is just stupid, not to mention bad public relations. Imagine if this gets traction in the media as a whole. Danny boy's already on thin ice with alot of people over how he has his organizations behave towards paying cutomers. It's a friggin' camera. The security goons were just lookign for an excuse to make themselve's look good by doing "something".

Posted by: EricS | September 18, 2007 9:58 AM

Hmmmmm. This Farhoodi guy. Did he just happen to be Middle Eastern?

Posted by: blackspeak,DC,USA | September 18, 2007 10:12 AM

SLR cameras are becoming ubiquitous. I think the team needs to realize that amateurs have SLR cameras, and should be allowed to snap photos with them at the games.

Posted by: Cliff | September 18, 2007 10:14 AM

Sure Moran is a jew-baiting, wife-beating nincompoop with a venal streak a mile wide but he votes the Liberal canon.

Posted by: Stick | September 18, 2007 10:19 AM

Just another in a long list of reasons why I have absolutely no interest in professional sports in general, and the Redskins in particular.

Posted by: ajsmithva | September 18, 2007 10:19 AM

From the Redskins' FedEx Field Stadium Guide ( http://www.redskins.com/fedexfield/stadiumguide.jsp ):


"Cameras

Still cameras, digital cameras and handheld video cameras are permitted at sporting events. Guests may not reproduce any shots for any commercial use without the written permission of the Redskins. For concerts, still cameras, digital cameras, video cameras and audio recording devices are not permitted."

Seems pretty straight forward. No mention of pro vs amateur cameras. The security guys got it wrong.

Posted by: Fan with a camera | September 18, 2007 10:24 AM

Just a footnote about Dan Snyder's cash machine. Yes, a privately-financed stadium construction effort by the deceased Cooke, but State of Maryland ponied up substantial sums at taxpayer expense for access roads, sewage and other utilities infrastructure to make this possible (halftime flush!). I guess that only means you can take pictures of the parking lot, the concourse and the johns though.

Lame policy, but only so much because of its implementation. IF... there were warnings galore about cameras, on ticket purchase receipts (internet), on ticket stubs, on the team web site, at the turnstiles, on the PA system announcements and on electronic sign boards before kick-off... I dunno, the complaint the seems kinda hollow. It's like speeding down the highway, passing all of those Speed Limit signs with the "strictly enforced" tag, or "photo enforced" tag, passing by all of those "Targeted Enforcement Zone" signs you see on some highways, getting pulled over and given a warning, and then getting pulled over again and given a fat ticket, then offering up "but I didn't know what the Speed Limit was."

Posted by: Petey | September 18, 2007 10:28 AM

Amazing how folks can continue to defend the Redskins on any issue.

Yeah, it's a private facility. But there's no indication that you can't bring in a camera, or anything that defines "little ones".

If they publicly state their camera/photo policy then no one has a beef one way or the other. If FedEx Stadium folks let you in with it, it's on them, and they shouldn't go out of their way to ruin someone's afternoon just to enforce a harmless policy. Perhaps approaching someone and say, "you know, those aren't allowed, please don't bring it in next time" would go a long way to solving the problem in a nicer way.

Posted by: Kim | September 18, 2007 10:29 AM

Did anyone in Security check the memory and see if he was taking pictures of Greg Williams sending signals to the defense?

Posted by: BDWESQTM | September 18, 2007 10:35 AM

Maybe it was just an overzealous security guard? They have those you know.

Posted by: Stick | September 18, 2007 10:59 AM

Thanks Fan w/ Cam. That about rendered my previous post moot.

Posted by: Petey | September 18, 2007 11:00 AM

the Redskins webpage noted above does indeed state that cameras are permitted for sporting events....and there's no delineation between "amatuer" and 'professional" grade cameras.

Posted by: Agreeing Fan | September 18, 2007 11:02 AM

Great reporting Marc! You couldn't even be bothered to look at the Redskins' webpage to see their camera policy. Obviously, even we non-"journalists" took the 4 minutes to look into that obvious question. How pathetic of an excuse for journalism - this column is really little more than opinion and rant, lazily just taking what was served up to you by the agrieved fan without bothering to check even basic facts (that happen to support his and you position, nonetheless). Shoddy!

Posted by: Bill | September 18, 2007 11:33 AM

There's also a bit of intrigue going on with the "professional" folks. The Powers That Be in Professional Football ordered the professional photogs to wear a vest that has the logo for the official sponsor camera company of the Powers That Be. Other restrictions came along with the package.

Some news organizations feared they were crossing the thin (blue?) line into an unethical realm. Apparently, the fear was that unofficial photographers might by tickets and provide images of the game without the Orange Vest has introduced a new fear of SLR cameras.

On Sunday, I was at stadium jumping equestrian event with my SLR and a relatively large lens (100-300 zoom)and was able to get some pretty good pictures without getting run down by half ton animals. The line between consumer, prosumer and professional cameras is blurring if one has the right lenses.

Posted by: Dave R | September 18, 2007 11:38 AM

My God Bill - get a grip. It is a blog, not a column.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | September 18, 2007 11:59 AM

Marc, love ya, but sometimes you get it wrong.

Perhaps the Post and it's online sister should offer up a cheeky little disclaimer to point out what many readers already know, something like:

DISCLAIMER: Marc's work is opinion/editorial and we love that he pens such thought provoking pieces and brings so much traffic to the online side for comments (see those Google ads? Cha-Ching!). That said, he is entitled to his opinions and we support him in voicing them unless they enrage entire communities and cause us to lose advertising dollars. (If that ever happens, you're on your own pal; be sure to see HR to discuss your severance package. While you do that, we'll tidy up your work area and have all your things ready for you in a box before escorting you out of the building.) He is not, however, entitled to his own facts; in fact, he may not be entitled to any facts at all as far as we can tell. Read on at your own risk.

Posted by: Petey | September 18, 2007 12:33 PM

It's stuff such as this that makes me glad my favorite pro team is the Nationals.

Posted by: Vincent | September 18, 2007 1:02 PM

Yet another reason to like baseball more than football!

BTW, Bryan's defense of Jim Moran. Moran has not had a past episode of antisemitism. He has a long and very well documented history of such statements, rants, and actions. Further, for those who say that he is just trying to take an "even handed" view of the middle east, get a grip. Many of his statements have gone well over the line and are not only pro-Palestinian, or anti-Israel, they are patently anti-Semitic by any standard.

Posted by: mikes | September 18, 2007 1:19 PM

Marc: THANK YOU for continuing to report on the inane and arbitrary actions of authorities in their attempts to ban photography.

The ballooning sales figures on digital SLRs are astounding, which only promises more idiotic run-ins with "authorities" over the simple joy of picture taking.

Whether it's at a Redskins game, or on a public sidewalk in a very public part of town, I'm tired of having to look over my shoulder--let alone read up on my rights in advance--to simply enjoy photography. DC is gorgeous and fun, and a rapidly increasing number of people want to take pictures. If that's a crime, we have a serious issue to deal with, and THANK YOU Marc Fisher for paying attention.

Posted by: MrJay | September 18, 2007 1:58 PM

I believe that any accounts of the game, without the express consent of the Redskins or the NFL is strictly prohibited. As this is an account of the Miami Doplhins / Washington Redskins game, I think you should be strung up by your thumbs and forced to watch only the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, and Philidealphia Eagles for the rest of the season.

There is, of course, an alternative, ignore the Redskins. Drop all of the Washington Post's coverage of the 'Skins, stop going to their games, stop buying the clothes and other trademarked goods, and the Redskins will adjust their behavior.

The power is in the fans, not in the owner's booth; it is time to remind thes people -- NFL owners as a class -- that this is entertainment, not a business.

Posted by: Ken | September 18, 2007 2:20 PM

Ken: your belief that "any accounts of the game, without the express consent of the Redskins or the NFL is strictly prohibited" is flat wrong. First of all, "any accounts" is absurdly broad. What, you're not allowed to blog your experience of having seen the game?

Furthermore, the Redskins' official website specifically states that cameras, including digital cameras, are permitted during all sporting events:

http://www.redskins.com/fedexfield/stadiumguide.jsp ):


"Cameras

Still cameras, digital cameras and handheld video cameras are permitted at sporting events. Guests may not reproduce any shots for any commercial use without the written permission of the Redskins. For concerts, still cameras, digital cameras, video cameras and audio recording devices are not permitted."

Posted by: MrJay | September 18, 2007 2:34 PM

"It's obvious why this guy was targeted. His name is clearly Iranian; the Redskins rent-a-thugs need to keep their eyes on those swarthy brown people. Pathetic."

I had a very similar experience at the Baltimore Inner Harbor when a Greek guy on a moderately-large boat next to me called security because I was taking pictures of the Harbor from the dock. Once he realized that I was black and not "Arab", he said it was ok. "Security first, you know". First the rent-a-cop wanted to say that it was illegal for me to be taking pictures at the pier, then he wanted to say that it was private property, then he admitted that he just came out because a boatowner complained that I was taking pictures of his boat...then when that was proven not to be true, the Greek guy opened his mouth and blew the whole story.

There comes a point where the train is heading downhill and going fast enough, where there is little that one can do but to sit back and watch the train go downhill and pick up speed. Then, as they say, your perspective on what is happening depends on whether you are on the train, or standing beside the tracks, watching.

Just wait until these guys find out that the smaller the camera, the easier it is to put a really powerful zoom on it. Big lenses are faster but not necessarily longer. And if ignorance is a great excuse to act out of fear, a little knowledge is an even better excuse. The Redskins will tell you that, regardless, the safety and security of 70,000 football fans is worth a lot more than a "minor inconvenience" to a few Arabs who brave the contemporary climate and go to a public sporting event. And a lot of people will agree with it. As the British wag said, "don't look the least bit foreign".

Posted by: toogood | September 18, 2007 3:23 PM

...basically the security goons are just looking for any excuse to throw you out of the stadium, if you're not white. Racial profiling at its finest.

Posted by: cc | September 18, 2007 3:27 PM

I stopped going to Skins games when they became yet-another Maryland team...

Posted by: Gentry | September 18, 2007 3:58 PM

To the person who called Marc unethical, I think it's well understood that the stadium is private property, but it has public attributes, much like a shopping mall. But more importantly, Marc isn't saying that Dan Snyder cannot prohibit cameras (for we know he prohibits umbrellas, weapons, large purses and outside food), but the prohibition should be posted clearly and made part of the published rules. I'm a season ticket holder and the "stadium guide" I received, which features all the do's and don't's at FedEx Field, actually says that cameras "are permitted" at sporting events, but not concerts. Mr. Farhoodi should sue the Redskins in small claims court for dragging him away from the game, taking his camera from him, and delaying his departure at the end when he had to go pick it up. OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT!

And as long as we're criticizing Dan Snyder, let's not forget the pathetic shortage, year after year, of portable toilets in the parking lot.

Posted by: John | September 18, 2007 4:05 PM

This is stupid. The Redskins' security concerns are stupid.

See here: http://pictures.aol.com/sports/redskins

By definition, they're undermining their own policies.

Stupid.

Posted by: Dan | September 18, 2007 4:07 PM

anyone prove that zero public money went into FedEx field? Otherwise I'd say it's not exactly a completely private facility

Posted by: shek | September 18, 2007 4:13 PM

I actually watched the events occur as I have seats very near where the incident happened.

I do believe he was singled out in that section. Many people commented in 341 that the security there was unusually rude about even getting to your seats, checking tickets, not letting you walk up both sides of the stairs. I suspect this was just a case of overzealous behavior of a small part of security.

I am also amused that one of the promotions during the game is a free camera give away so you can "take pictures of future Redskins games"

Two small inaccuracies I believe in this blog. I've been in those seats for years, I don't miss games, and I've never seen him taking photos there before. He also didn't take any of him and his friends, all of the field...

Posted by: JR | September 18, 2007 4:21 PM

You know what? Dan Snyder can go to hell. I'm done with the Redskins until he sells the team. Just plain done. Thanks for ruining my favorite team, you little runt.

Posted by: JP | September 18, 2007 4:43 PM

Yet another reason why I could never be a Redskins fan (even though I like football).

Posted by: csdiego | September 18, 2007 4:48 PM

As a long time Redskins fan who has never had the opportunity to go to a game at either RFK or Fedex field, I would be pissed beyond belief if, after somehow getting tickets, officials took my camera while taking pictures of an event I would definitely want documented. Arab or not, professional camera or not, this kind of thought-crime style intervention cannot be tolerated.

That said, anyone who changes their loyalty towards the redskins team over this issue was never a fan to begin with. I'm pretty sure clinton portis and joe gibbs were not up in the stands taking cameras.
They were too busy winning.
We should make sure that we can differentiate between a team and the actions of an out of touch team administration.

Posted by: Jed Dougherty | September 18, 2007 11:01 PM

A team is a professional enterprise, not just a group of athletes. The big money and control-freak attitude of major sports has ruined the game for too many people over recent years. Therefore, I have no shame in conflating the illegal camera confiscation in this instance with the Redskins as a corporate outfit. Neighborhood flag football it ain't.

Posted by: MrJay | September 19, 2007 11:43 AM

Another reason to boycott miserable DC sport's.

Posted by: DCGaymer | September 19, 2007 12:38 PM

I had a "professional" SLR when i was 12 in 1980. I used to shoot redskin games back at RFK. Would security have done the same to youth today? The distinction they make between a "pro" camera and "tiny' camera is absurd. Treating your fans like a bully was not part of redskins experience i had growing up. Time and time again, i amazed that Daniel Synder attending the same games I did at RFK, and how different our experience must have been for him to lead the organization to things like this.

Shame on Daniel Synder.

Posted by: Dave | September 19, 2007 12:40 PM

I had a "professional" SLR when i was 12 in 1980. I used to shoot redskin games back at RFK. Would security have done the same to youth today? The distinction they make between a "pro" camera and "tiny' camera is absurd. Treating your fans like a bully was not part of redskins experience i had growing up. Time and time again, i amazed that Daniel Synder attending the same games I did at RFK, and how different our experience must have been for him to lead the organization to things like this.

Shame on Daniel Synder.

Posted by: Dave | September 19, 2007 12:41 PM

Reza sucks. His only dream is to be in a boy band.

That said, I think the security guards were way too lenient. A little tazing was in order.

Posted by: Josh | September 19, 2007 2:02 PM

I was one of Reza's friends at the game, and I can tell JR and others than we have been to many Redskins games in those seats in the past, and he has brought the same camera and taken pictures all those times. We also would have taken pictures of us at halftime, because, being fans, we were more concerned with the action on the field during the game.

That being said, my impression of the incident was clear racial profiling on the part of the Redskins. Not only did 2 armed security guards come to confiscate a simple camera, they completely ignored the other people around our section with similar sized cameras and bags, who didn't happen to look middle-eastern. Several fans in our section agreed with me that if it was me or another white person who brought the camera to the game, we would have been left well alone. I was disgusted by this incident and can only hope that someone from the Redskins organization has the guts to explain their actions in this case.

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Posted by: Peter | October 25, 2007 3:03 PM

hey guys, here's the solution: EVERYONE bring a camera (can't bring a camera bag, too big), EVERYONE print out a copy of the website referenced. MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOTICED with the camera.

And I've been to several games, with my film SLR shot multiple rolls of film, with no problems, especially when you could bring the bag in. Haven't been in with my digital with the 70-200 lens yet, and IT will stand out. May have to get tickets and go this year.

I just love messing with security people. I can smell a lawsuit coming! LOL

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