As the Minnesota Vikings get ready to leave the Metrodome for a yet-to-be-built stadium, local police are suing the National Football League over a policy that prevents off-duty cops from carrying their weapons into stadiums.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) and Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis (POFM) filed a suit challenging the NFL’s recently enacted policy against concealed weapons in league stadiums and facilities. Only security staffers specifically designated to provide security for league events are authorized to bear arms on NFL-affiliate property.
The two groups say the ban on guns violates state law, which permits off-duty officers to carry guns in all private establishments regardless of the private businesses’ gun policies. In an incident in December, an off-duty cop attending the Vikings’ final game at the Metrodome was asked to remove his gun and lock it in his car, according to the Star Tribune.
“This is the most unsafe thing you could do,” said MPPOA executive Dennis Flaherty. “Officers are trained and encouraged to be able to respond 24 hours a day. This is terrible public policy.”
Off-duty cops can always be called upon in the event of an emergency, and thus often carry their weapons at all times. “We are police officers 24/7,” Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer said in October after the league introduced the rule. “You never know what’s gonna happen, or when it’s gonna happen.”
It is not uncommon for officers to be required to carry their weapons off-duty, as is the case in Cleveland. In Minnesota, officers have a choice to be armed or unarmed in their off-hours. The suit argues that the new guidelines put officers in a position of violating either the league’s or their agency’s policy.
NFL head of security Jeffrey Miller downplayed the likelihood of such an event, saying a situation in which off-duty police officers watching a football game would need their weapons as “extremely remote.” Miller said designated security would be enough to keep stadiums safe. Additionally, since most states recognize NFL teams as “licensers” issuing licenses in the form of tickets to the game, it is fully within the teams’ rights to deny admission.
But Flaherty is confident the courts will rule in the Minnesota police unions’ favor. “I’m confident [that] when a judge looks at the law closely and the intent the Legislature had in mind, he or she will rule on our behalf,” he told the Star Tribune.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.