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It wasn't really a snowball that got a Jets defensive end into trouble with the NFL, and now into a lawsuit. It was really more of a snow boulder, or as the NFL spokesman put it, a "chunk" of snow. Regardless, the renown Sean Ellis snowball fight led to his being fined $10,000 by the NFL and now to a suit filed last week in a Washington state superior court.
The incident which lead to the lawsuit is shown on a popular video posted many places including this, from the New York Post. According to the Post's report, after the Jets' loss to the Seahawks in December of 2008, the players were heading off the field when they were pelted with flying snowballs from the stands. Talk about sore winners. A fan in the corner of the stands is waving a sign, which according to the suit, makes him a "target" for Ellis.
Apparently ticked off, Ellis picks up the significant chunk of snow (and likely ice) and hurls it at the corner of the stand where the sign-waving fan, presumably the plaintiff Robert Larson, is standing. It is difficult to tell, but it appears Larson is slammed in the upper body or head with the block of snow. He appears unhurt. In fact, he looks downright pumped after his interaction with Ellis as he waves the ice chunk above his head like it was a foul ball. Larson then waves to the stands, and points to the "snowball" as if to highlight what just went down between him and Ellis.
The lawsuit states the claims by Larson include injury, mental distress, humiliation, pain and wage losses, reports the Post. Injury, pain and loss of wages will have to be proven one way or not in future proceedings. The video, however, will be tough for Larson to discount. If Larson was indeed humiliated, why did he victoriously raise his prize over his head? Why point to the snow block to draw attention to it and himself?
Still, the NFL (like other sports leagues) has clear legal and PR reasons to keep players from interacting in um, "negative" ways with fans. In addition to the legal liability, this kind of behavior doesn't make any of the million-dollar kids on the field look very good.
Would fans even start to stay home and watch on TV a safe distance from projectile objects? Doubtful, but chances are the NFL wouldn't take that chance.