A hypothetical scenario:

  1. An athletic event is being played in the U.S. (Let's say it's American football).
  2. A fan runs onto the field and disrupts the game.
  3. A player performs a rough, aggressive "football tackle" on the fan and holds the fan for security to arrive.

Click here for a video of similar circumstances. Although, my question is different than what's shown in the video. My fact pattern includes the player performing a rough / aggressive "football tackle" on the fan.


Did the player who tackled the fan commit a crime (or tort) of assault or battery against the fan?

  • Does the act of entering the field of play constitute a "contract" on the part of the fan, causing them to agree to, and be bound by the rules of the game, thereby making them eligible to be blocked and tackled? Seems like the worst that should happen to the player then is a penalty flag for "unnecessary roughness" causing the fan to be handcuffed 15 yards further down the field from the spot of the foul. Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 0:43
  • To a footballer, there are three kinds of people on the field: Team mates, referee and opponents. It’s reasonable to expect you will be treated like an opponent if you are on the field and you are not a team mate or referee.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


I'll use California penal code 837 as an example, though most other states have similar statutes:

A private person may arrest another:

  1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence...

839 says:

Any person making an arrest may orally summon as many persons as he deems necessary to aid him therein.

Generally, someone making an arrest is allowed to use "reasonable force" to effect the arrest.

The question then becomes, is the act of interrupting a football game a public offense? Once a fan at a football game enters the field, assuming it is a violation of the license granted to the fan, they are trespassing. These fans are often drunk when performing their midfield dance so that is another public offense for which they could be arrested.

Once arrested, the interloper must be turned over as soon as possible to a magistrate or peace officer.

The person making the arrest is always subject to being sued. It is a question for a trier of fact to determine if unreasonable force was used in effecting the arrest.

My guess is that in most of these cases security simply ejects the exuberant fan from the premises and the fan never looks back. If a lawsuit were to be filed it would be based on unreasonable force being applied during the arrest.

California penal code 240 defines assault as

"an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another."

Certainly, one could be charged with assault in effecting a citizen's or private arrest but it would go back to the definition of reasonable force and what force was necessary to effect the arrest. If someone resisted arrest I think it more likely that that person could face an assault charge.

  • 1
    Major league sporting events usually have police officers on site, so I'd think that if the fan committed a crime, they'd be arrested by those officers. One possible charge might be a violation of California Penal Code section 403, making it a misdemeanor to disrupt a lawful assembly. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 0:57
  • Players often tackle their opponents forcefully in rugby or American Football. Was he tackled beyond that? So throwing someone on the ground is to be expected, punching someone in the face isn’t - unless you enter the ring of a boxing match.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 7:38

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