Browns Trying To Make Sure Beer Bottle-Throwing Incident Isn't Repeated

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Instant replay hasn't been fixed, but the Cleveland Browns are making sure that last year's ugly bottle-throwing incident is never repeated.

On Saturday, the Browns will play their first home game since Dec. 16, when an overturned call in the final minutes against Jacksonville led to fans pelting officials, police, players and coaches with thousands of plastic beer bottles.

This year, those 20-ounce bottles have been banned. The club also is taking a zero-tolerance approach with fans who throw objects.

"The only person throwing anything at the stadium will be the quarterback," said Browns security director Lew Merletti, a former director of the U.S. Secret Service.

In the aftermath of the near-riot at last season's home finale, the Browns announced several policy changes designed to prevent a similar situation at their stadium.

Among them:

  • No more plastic beer bottles. Beer will be poured into cups by vendors and at concession stands. However, fans will still be able to purchase bottled soft drinks and water.
  • Beer sales will be cut off following the third quarter at day games, and stopped at the conclusion of halftime during night games.
  • Fans will be limited to two beers per transaction. In the past, they could buy four at one time.
  • A "Ready Room" next to the field has been set up where Browns officials can more easily communicate with the league office in New York as well as security personnel in the stadium. Merletti said that was the biggest problem eight months ago.

The Browns feel the new policies were essential to ensure there would never be another bottle-throwing incident, which along with the "Beer Night" riot in 1974 at an Indians game, ranks among the most embarrassing events in Cleveland sports history.

"We're doing what we think is the wise, and rational and reasonable thing to do," Browns president Carmen Policy said Tuesday.

Following last year's melee, the Browns reviewed videotape and still photographs in hopes of identifying some of the fans who threw bottles or other debris on the field.

Merletti said 17 arrests were made and that the club has revoked five season-ticket accounts. The Browns also have photographs of 24 other individuals they are hoping to find.

"We have not been able to identify those people but we will be looking for them at these games," Merletti said. "The matter is not closed yet."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)