Fan Fights For Right To Curse At Games

Eric Holguin's Lawsuit Challenges Fan Behavior Policies

A legal showdown is looming over whether fans have the right to curse at Chargers or Padres games.

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In October 2010, the Chargers were in the midst of blowing out the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium. Eric Holguin, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who was at the game wearing Cardinals colors, said he was being cursed out the entire game by many fans. He said he did not respond until two fans approached him.

"Two Chargers fans came down and challenged him to a fight. He said no thank you and said, '[expletive] you' back," said Holguin's attorney, Mary Frances Prevost.

Prevost said security eventually ejected all three men. But when Holguin headed back to the entrance to meet his wife, he was greeted by several police officers.

"They expect that he's trying to get back in and literally grab him and a struggle ensues," said Prevost.

A bruised Holguin was arrested, but a jury later acquitted him for assault and resisting arrest. He was, however, convicted for giving a false name to officers but has vowed to appear in court.

Prevost said it was a legal nightmare that began with an ejection that was unconstitutional.

"A fan has a right to say '[expletive] you]' in public. It's a public place," Prevost said.

Holguin has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Diego, including an injunction asking the city to stop enforcing its rules for fan behavior at Petco Park and Qualcomm stadium, including the NFL's Fan Code of Conduct, which bans obscene and offensive language.

"It's vague, overbroad and ambiguous. It also prohibits First Amendment speech," said Prevost.

The San Diego City Attorney's Office declined comment because it has yet to be served with the suit and it needs time to review it.

In a recent interview, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said a code of conduct, even for obscenities, is critical "otherwise it will escalate into violence as it's happened in the past. Families will be less likely to go to games."

The Chargers issued the following statement on the matter:

"The NFL's Code of Conduct has helped make fans further aware that their behavior has an impact on others, and ultimately has helped curtail the number of incidents league-wide. The NFL Code of Conduct has been and will continue to be a strong asset to our efforts."

If a judge sides with Holguin, it could force changes in stadiums across the country.

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