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49ers win right to pat down fans for security reasons

SAN FRANCISCO -- A state appeals court said Tuesday that the
San Francisco 49ers may pat down fans before they enter Monster
Park.

Two season-ticket holders sued the team for invasion of privacy
in 2005 after the 49ers instituted the policy that season as part
of the NFL's anti-terrorism security efforts.

The California Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, said that
Daniel and Kathleen Sheehan waived their privacy concerns because
they knew of the pat-down searches before they bought their tickets
for the 2006-07 season. They sued in December 2005 after
experiencing pat-down searches that season.

The court said the couple could quit going to games if they were
offended by the searches.

"By voluntarily re-upping for the next season under these
circumstances, rather than opting to avoid the intrusion by not
attending the games at Monster Park, the Sheehans impliedly
consented to the pat-downs," Justice Timothy Reardon wrote for the
majority, adding that the "Sheehans have no reasonable expectation
of privacy."

Justice Maria Rivera dissented, arguing that her colleagues too
easily tossed aside the Sheehans' privacy concerns.

"The courts' role in protecting privacy rights should not be so
readily abdicated," Rivera wrote, noting that the Sheehans have no
other way to watch the team in person. "If you are the only game
in town, requiring your customers to either submit to a pat-down
search or walk away does not present the kind of genuine choice
upon which the majority's reasoning is premised."

Niners spokeswoman Lisa Lang noted that the search was limited
to fans' packages and their mid-torsos.

"We believe that this ruling upholds our policy to protect our
fans," Lang said Tuesday.

ACLU lawyers, who helped the Sheehans with their lawsuit, and a
49ers spokeswoman didn't immediately return calls for comment.

A federal appeals court in Florida and a federal district court
judge in Seattle each ruled similarly in upholding pat-down
searches at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks home games.