A Carolina Panthers fan who was put in a “sleeper” hold by security guards at a Dallas Cowboys game last year has filed a lawsuit against the Texas team and its stadium security company.
John Small’s lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in damages for the incident, which made national headlines, has been viewed nearly 200,000 times on YouTube and added to the debate about fan behavior at NFL games.
The video shows Small, who is from Asheville, wearing a Panthers jersey and struggling with several security guards at the Panthers versus Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day. Someone repeatedly yells “relax.” Small yells and swears at the guards, telling them to get off him.
One guard has his arm around Small’s neck. Near the end of the video, a fan wearing a Chicago Bears uniform comes to Small’s aid, breaking up the hold.
In the lawsuit, Small said he and his mother had attended the Carolina Panthers Thanksgiving Day game at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, a year after his father died.
Near the end of the game, Small stood up and held up a homemade sign. The lawsuit doesn’t say what the sign said, but several reports say it read “11-0,” boasting of the Panthers’ then-undefeated season and the impending Dallas defeat.
The lawsuit says a security guard asked Small to sit down, but the North Carolina man didn’t because “Mr. Small’s behavior, while enthusiastic, was not disruptive.”
The suit says Small didn’t pose a threat to other fans or security guards, and that he didn’t violate the Cowboys Stadium Code of Conduct.
The lawsuit said Small was actually leaving the stadium when the scuffle broke out.
“Mr. Small was already in the aisle walking toward the exit when a member of the security team hit him in the back,” the lawsuit says. “This blow caused Mr. Small to stumble slightly, and then the security team member came up behind Mr. Small, and wrapped his arm around Mr. Small’s neck from the back, bending his elbow and tightening his arm to creat a chokehold.”