Last December, the University of Houston terminated its contract with Contemporary Services Corporation after the company’s security guards assaulted Cougars fans attempting to celebrate their team’s AAC championship. UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek stated he was “disappointed and angered” by the incident, videos of which illustrate CSC employees shoving, tackling, and punching jubilant students while other CSC personnel stand aside, allowing the fans to rush the field in celebration.
It was a revealing look at how the physical territory of sports is protected, and at how many things can go wrong with the contractors and low-paid, trained-in-a-day security guards hired to do the job. Employees of CSC, which markets itself as the “world leader” in stadium security, will work many of the biggest upcoming events on the sports calendar, including the NBA playoffs and the Final Four—though, notably, not the Super Bowl. (In 2006 the NFL ended its deal with CSC to provide Super Bowl security, citing cost as a factor.)
Every major sports league in the U.S. has employed CSC. The company has worked 10 Olympics, four presidential inaugurations, and three papal visits. Their yellow jackets are ubiquitous and instantly recognizable at most large public events.
But with that ubiquity comes a number of complaints. Since 1991, CSC has been sued in federal court at least 21 times on claims ranging from personal injuries, civil rights violations, and assault and battery. While it’s impossible to draw a direct comparison, their closest competitors, Elite Services, has been sued five times in a similar timeframe.
Most of these lawsuits resulted in out-of-court settlements between CSC and the plaintiffs. Taken together, they provide a glimpse of just how fine the line is between keeping order and abusing power, and how, to sports promoters, fan safety is just another cost center to be weighed against profits.
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