On Sunday, after the Eagles took down the Washington Football Team to help vault themselves into the playoffs, Dan Snyder’s much-despised stadium in Landover, Md., nearly got some revenge on Philly QB Jalen Hurts. As Hurts was walking off the field, soaking in cheers from the many Eagles fans who traveled to the game, a railing near the tunnel suddenly gave out, sending several fans tumbling to the ground into Hurts’s path.
It could have been much worse, but this was no harmless fall. ESPN spoke with fans who say their injuries included a cervical strain, a pulled groin, and various bruises and aches. And while Washington released a statement on Sunday saying, “To our knowledge, everyone involved was offered on-site medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord,” several fans said that the so-called medical attention was sorely lacking. Via Tim McManus’s report, here’s one woman’s worrisome account of the aftermath of the fall:
“As I was getting up, I was trying to get my foot out of the railing because it was still caught, and the people at FedEx, they were just ripping up the railing as my foot was still caught in it.
“They didn’t even ask, ‘Are you OK? Do you need help?’ Nothing. They just went about their day. Hurts was actually the one asking, ‘Are you guys OK?’ It was crazy.”
The incident affected Hurts enough that the QB sent a letter to the WFT and NFL asking them what they would do moving forward to ensure the safety of those in the stadium.
“What happened on Sunday put both fans and players unnecessarily at risk,” Hurts wrote.
The team and league’s initial public responses to the letter have both been extraordinarily vague, transparently reflecting the parties’ concern about potential lawsuits that could be filed by the injured fans.
“(WFT president Jason Wright) received the letter and sent a private email in reply. He looks forward to talking to Jalen. Additionally, we’re working to ensure this does not happen again,” said a Washington spokesperson.
“”We appreciate Jalen’s concerns and have been reviewing the incident with the Washington Football Team,” said an NFL comms guy.
Hopefully they continue to be pressed for a solution, because Washington’s initial fix appears to be a very temporary and flimsy band-aid.
But even if that dangerous area does eventually receive an effective redesign, Washington’s apparent cluelessness is cause for concern, because in retrospect this looks like a very predictable accident. An unidentified team official in the McManus report essentially blamed the fans for the fall, saying that the area was intended for people with disabilities and that the railing wasn’t designed to handle all the force that was leaning up against it. But anyone who works in the NFL should know that a scenario like the one on Sunday—one in which fans flock toward the tunnel to get close to players entering or exiting the field—is not uncommon at all. And fans who fell have said that stadium security allowed them to go up to the railing, and that there were no signs warning them to stay away.
If true, their story implies a few different potential failures on the part of the Football Team. Perhaps they were caught totally unaware that fans might lean against a railing to try and see a famous athlete walk right by them. Perhaps they simply failed to train their employees to prevent such a crowd from forming in that dangerous spot. Or perhaps they simply didn’t care enough to reinforce that fragile railing. Whatever the answer, I wouldn’t put money on this team suddenly changing its long-held apathetic attitude toward the fan experience, at least not without some cynical reason to do so. Maybe the seemingly inevitable lawsuits that come from this will change Dan Snyder’s mind.