A video of a Florida fan being asked to remove his Panthers jersey at Wednesday’s Game 6 in Tampa is going viral as Brad Bargman’s YouTube post has gotten 84,000 views since being put up on Thursday.
Bargman apparently attended Wednesday’s game with his 11-year-old son and both were approached by what appear to be team staffers at the Lightning’s Chase Club at Amalie Arena and asked to take off their Panthers gear or leave the area.
He is not the first person to be asked to remove opposing team gear in the team’s club area — just perhaps the first to record his interaction.
I have not been able to locate Bargman for comment.
Anyway, the Lightning has had this “no opposing gear” rule in place for the past six years but, as of Thursday afternoon, apparently will not enforce it anymore.
According to Greg Wyshynski, the Lightning told ESPN that it would not force opposing fans to change out of enemy apparel.
The rule only applied to the club areas — the Chase and Lexus clubs — at the arena as well as seating areas along the glass in an attempt to keep opposing fan gear from being on television.
What amounts to a Tampa Bay-only (or plain old clothing) dress code policy was pretty well stated.
Tickets in these specific areas come with disclaimers: Only Lightning gear or neutral clothing is allowed.
“Fans wearing visiting team apparel will be asked to remove them while in these areas,” the Ticketmaster statement reads.
Looking at tickets in the Chase Club earlier Thursday on StubHub, there is a note that says there is an “apparel restriction” and that “opponent jerseys cannot be worn.”
Per TickPick: “The one caveat for both club areas, is that away team colors are PROHIBITED and the staff will ask you to remove. This is a fairly childish policy, but it ensures that no visiting team fans will end up on the TV broadcasts.’’
Yeah, it most definitely was a “fairly childish” policy and one that made the organization sound a little insecure in their standing. Which, of course, it should not be.
Make no mistake, the Lightning is a first-class organization but one which apparently got tired of seeing opposing teams clog the lower bowl — like when the Rangers came to town for the 2015 Eastern Conference finals.
This is when the team first implemented selling tickets to fans with Florida addresses first.
For the Stanley Cup Finals, some Chicago fans wanting to come down for some games found themselves locked out when their credit cards were declined when they put their zip codes in.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will no longer enforce a policy that restricts fans from wearing gear supporting other NHL clubs in their premium seating areas, the team tells ESPN. This decision comes after a viral video featuring Panthers fans confronted by arena staff. More to come.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 28, 2021
The New York Times did a story on Tampa’s restrictive ticket policy in 2015 during the Rangers series in the east finals.
“We’re not going to apologize for the policy. We want to create as much of a hometown environment for the Lightning players and our season-ticket holders as we can, and we’ve been somewhat successful with it,’’ then-executive VP of communications Bill Wickett told the Times.
Wickett left the Lightning for Nashville earlier this year.
“We understand some general hockey fans don’t like it, but the Lightning team and Lightning fans need to come first. We wanted to do anything we could to make sure the building is blue and fans inside are Lightning fans.”
It is reality, however, in most Sun Belt markets — regardless of the sport — you are going to have fans of the other team.
Most of them live in your neighborhood.
It happens at Panthers, Marlins, Heat and Dolphins games, for sure, as well as at games of the Arizona Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Coyotes as well as in Nashville and Carolina. Atlanta knows of which we speak.
The list goes on and on.
When you live in a town with a high level of transplanted residents from the north, you’re going to see a lot of loyalty to teams from those areas and not necessarily to the local one.
It is why Tampa has a hockey team in the first place.
Did the NHL give a one-sport town like Tampa a team in the early 1990s because it believed in the local fan base? No. It knew there were a lot of transplants and snowbirds who would fill the joint up.
As Reggie Dunlop said in ‘Slap Shot:’ “What do you think those old geezers really miss in Florida?Hockey. Their own team. A Saturday night game. Those poor old people down there, they got to have something to root for.”
When the Panthers first started, Bill Torrey said the team welcomed fans who root for the Rangers, Islanders or Canadiens when they played the Panthers — but he hoped those fans would root for their new team (the Panthers) the rest of the time.
And, perhaps over the years, change their allegiances.
That has definitely happened in Tampa over the years and, to a lesser extent, in South Florida.
The Lightning are an established entity in Tampa. Even though the Bucs just won the Super Bowl and have decades on the Lightning, you could say the hockey team runs that town.
It is about time they stopped with the “you can’t wear this here” stuff.
It really was not a good look — and it took a viral video from a guy wearing Panthers gear to make it go away. At least for now.