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Police Threaten Autograph Collectors with Arrest at Hoop Hall Classic

On Saturday, January 14, 2012, an officer of the Springfield College Police Department threatened to jail two ticket-holding patrons at the Hoop Hall Classic—an annual high school basketball showcase hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—for taking pictures from the stands and for suspicion of asking players for autographs. Here is my story.

Notice of Trespass issued to Matt Raymond

Notice of Trespass issued to Matt Raymond by Springfield College police. Was it justified?

Shortly after the buzzer sounded on the St. Patrick’s/LaVerne Lutheran game, Officer X (as I will refer to him) intercepted my friend and me as we left the snack bar area inside Springfield College’s Blake Arena, the setting for the weekend-long tournament.

“I know why you’re here and if I see either of you asking for autographs or taking pictures with players you’re going to spend the weekend in jail and you’re not getting out until at least Tuesday. I suggest you [buy a ticket and] go get your hands stamped and take a seat.”

We showed him our previously-stamped hands and assured him he wouldn’t see us do those things. Returning to the court, we scouted a place to sit for the next game. Another police officer stood next to us and over his radio we heard Officer X’s voice:

“We’ve identified the autograph hounds. Bring me two trespass notices to have on hand.”

I turned to the officer. “He’s talking about us,” I said, gesturing to myself and my friend. “Have you ever heard of a law against asking for autographs?”

“That’s a new one to me,” he said with a smirk.

At the next whistle we found seats about four rows up at center court for the 4pm game, which pitted Gonzaga College High School against Riverside Academy. Throughout the game I took out my camera to snap shots of the action. I have become interested in photography recently and taking my own pictures of players to get signed later has been a way for me to marry the two hobbies.

The event had been running ahead of schedule and the teams set to square off at 6pm—Oak Hill Academy and Prestonwood Christian Academy—took the floor to warm-up twenty minutes before the tip. To pass the time, I took out my camera again and photographed the shootaround.

Five minutes into the game Officer X appeared at the base of the stands with the officer we were standing with earlier.

“You two! Come with me—you’re out of here!”

Everyone sitting around us turned to see the offenders, shock on their faces. Shock on ours. Needless to say, we had no idea why we were being taken away by the police.

Officer X escorted us to the exit, stopping just before the door. “I told you if I saw you taking pictures you were going to jail.”

I asked him why our cameras were allowed in the venue when our bags were searched by security personnel at the entrance. Furthermore, we had not asked a single player to take a picture with us. We were taking pictures of the action, along with hundreds of other ticket-holding fans at the Classic.

“Do you have a kid on the team? Then it’s unauthorized photography.” He pointed to a sign posted by the arena’s exit.

Also listed as a prohibited activity: Cell phone use beyond the lobby. I’m not making this up. I pointed out to Officer X that there were not just hundreds of other amateur photographers in the stands but cell phone users who all kept their seats.

“We can police this campus any way we want. Keep running your mouth and you’re getting locked up until Tuesday. Bail will be set at $5,000. Give me your licenses.”

I wasn’t aware police officers were empowered to set bail.

A member of the Springfield College security staff appeared, “You guys are taking pictures for profit. We’ve had issues with you guys for years.”

I told him his speculation was ridiculous and we were absolutely not profiting off our photography, pointing out my friend was using a point-and-shoot camera—not exactly the tool of choice for Getty Images. (I was using a Nikon D5000 which my wife bought me as a wedding present two years ago—not a professional setup.) But he was half-right about one thing, we had been attending the Hoop Hall Classic for several years and this wasn’t our first encounter with Officer X. A brief history:

2007
Michael Beasley was the Classic’s star attraction, then a senior at Notre Dame Prep. My first year at the event, autographs seemed to be permitted as players signed hundreds of autographs for fans in every corner of the arena and lobby.

2008
Another autograph-friendly year, Brandon Jennings was one of the most-hyped players at the event (the Hoop Hall Classic website specifically highlights “Featured Players” on their website) and was one of many players signing and taking pictures with fans all weekend.

2009
The event again featured future NBA draftees, including DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Xavier Henry and Lance Stephenson. We got autographs and pictures with these players in plain view of every police officer and security official at Blake Arena.

2010
We met Officer X this year. When attempting to graph Jared Sullinger after a game he told us not to ask players for autographs in the building. He told us he knew we were selling them. If you’ve read Autograph University you know I don’t sell autographs. After he spoke with us we only graphed outside when players were boarding the bus.

2011
Officer X found us early and threatened to arrest us “for solicitation” if he saw us asking players for autographs. We asked him to explain his concern (and to define “solicitation” in this context), noting that players have the right to refuse to sign. He replied that a parent had complained about autograph seekers and that the players were minors and couldn’t make their own decision about signing. We asked his permission to approach players who were over 18 years old. He agreed (!) and we looked players’ ages up before making requests, sometimes right in front of Officer X.

2012 (continued)
Officer X took our licenses, asked for our Social Security numbers, and completed a Notice of Trespass for each of us which we signed. I asked his name which he gave me (he was not in uniform and did not have a name tag). I asked him to spell his name and he refused. He explained that we were banned from the campus of Springfield College for three years, until January 14, 2015. If we violated the order we would be arrested immediately. I told him we’d see him then.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this experience and your stories of encounters with police/security during your autograph adventures.

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

25 comments… add one

  • John January 18, 2012, 9:21 am

    It’s private property. They can restrict access to anyone they want.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment John.

  • Peter Shulman January 18, 2012, 9:30 am

    I would appeal to the Director of Security and explain your case.

    It is unfortunate that under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 120 they are able to issue trespass notices to individuals to prevent their return to the owner’s property for reasons as little as actions deemed unacceptable by the college.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:45 pm

    I appreciate the comments Pete.

  • Matt S January 18, 2012, 10:39 am

    i guess the trick is to keep a low profile as best you can. this becomes harder and harder the more “regular” you become, though. eventually they “know” you, will make judgements, and single you out. just an unfortunate consequence of the hobby. i would fight the citation, though. if you bought a ticket, you are a “patron”, and therefore cannot be trespassing.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Thanks for joining the conversation Matt. Good points.

  • Fahz January 18, 2012, 1:02 pm

    It sucks to be treated like that period but I would at least do what Peter Shulman suggested and appeal to Officer X boss. Sounds like an over zealous security guard. Players were minors and couldn’t make their own decision about signing that is something I have never heard before? Minor run ins/threats but never a trespass notice.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:44 pm

    I appreciate the comment Fahz.

  • fred n. January 18, 2012, 1:28 pm

    i would hire a lawyer and file a suit for unfair harrassment.first off,the day you saw him in plain clothes.unless he flashes a badge,there is nothing he can do and by rights he has to give you a badge number and properly spell his name in case you file a report against him.there is just so much in this that smells like a overzealous wannabe policeman,who is just itching to get sued and you’ll win.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Fred.

  • Canadagraphs January 18, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I would personally fight it myself & make it public(beyond my own blog).

    That being said, I dont have a lot of responsibilities, so I would have the time to take on such an endeavour. I realize it would be time consuming & mentally draining. So I understand why it might not be a viable option.

    Still, you shouldnt just roll over either and accept the 3 yr penalty. I would contact whoever employs them (the school?), explain the situation, show him the blog & your site as a whole, explain how the wannabe cop targeted you as a “seller” when you are not. If they dont feel further investigating into the situation is needed, try to encourage them to change their minds. Explain to them how next years event might just have a larger than average attendance of autograph seekers then out of protest, and not the patient & co-operative hobbyists like yourself. That it would take several Officer X’s to enforce such laws against all of them, Do they really want to budget in that additional expense, headache & PR embarrassment because of 1 over-zealous wannabe cops poor decision this year?

    Hell, at the end of the tourney if they havent had all the autograph hounds removed for the exact same reasons, I am quite sure a good lawyer can find a discrimination lawsuit in there too.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Great ideas, thanks for the thoughtful suggestions.

  • adam January 18, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I am an attorney but not licensed in Massachusetts. Here is what you face if you enter the premises again:

    Section 120. Whoever, without right enters or remains in or upon the dwelling house, buildings, boats or improved or enclosed land, wharf, or pier of another, or enters or remains in a school bus, as defined in section 1 of chapter 90, after having been forbidden so to do by the person who has lawful control of said premises, whether directly or by notice posted thereon, or in violation of a court order pursuant to section thirty-four B of chapter two hundred and eight or section three or four of chapter two hundred and nine A, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both such fine and imprisonment. Proof that a court has given notice of such a court order to the alleged offender shall be prima facie evidence that the notice requirement of this section has been met. A person who is found committing such trespass may be arrested by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or police officer and kept in custody in a convenient place, not more than twenty-four hours, Sunday excepted, until a complaint can be made against him for the offence, and he be taken upon a warrant issued upon such complaint.

    This section shall not apply to tenants or occupants of residential premises who, having rightfully entered said premises at the commencement of the tenancy or occupancy, remain therein after such tenancy or occupancy has been or is alleged to have been terminated. The owner or landlord of said premises may recover possession thereof only through appropriate civil proceedings.

    So, unless you can get the police to revoke the notice you were given, if they catch you there again, you are going to be in violation of the statute. All the Commonwealth will have to show is that they gave you the notice and you disregarded it. Given that, I would suggest you take the matter up with the College and/or the entity that runs the tournament. You need to get the notice you were given “quashed” (legal term) or revoked. You could, if Massachusetts provides, file a lawsuit against the College to get the notice revoked on consitutional grounds. The point is you need to do something to get that notice invalidated now; you will not be able to bring up the impropriety of the notice if you get caught on the property again.

  • Matt Raymond January 18, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Adam, thank you so much for sharing this information. I really appreciate the perspective.

  • Doug (Buckin'Nutz SCN) January 18, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Hey Matt, great story. I hate hearing about things like this. Many of us “graphers” run into things like this all the time because a select few give us a bad name. I’ve had a few run-ins, but this takes the cake. I really hope you try to take this public. The only time we make the news is for negative things. Would be nice to see a story were we are the good guys for once. Sounds like you had a great venue as well. Hope it all works out. Really like the site.

  • Matt Raymond January 19, 2012, 8:03 pm

    I appreciate your comments Doug.

  • RJK January 19, 2012, 7:23 am

    I attended this event on Monday for the first time.

    An officer came up to me in a crowd of about 20 people and said something like “I think you are doing this for profit, and I have the right as an officier of this school to remove you from the premices” I had not even ever asked for an autograph. I was just standing there with a group of about 20 people – mostly kids – and I am a middle aged man.

    I should have asked him if the school condones profiles of people, and discrimination against me. I think it is fair to treat everyone the same, just do not treat me differently. I think if you are at this event and are a kid, that is ok. But and adult, no. The same officer did not say anything when kids asked for autographs right in front of him.

    Profit. Let’s see. I wanted one Jabari Parker autograph. I took a day of vacation, dorve 3 1/2 hours each way to get to the event, gas, a ticket, lost pay. I figure right about $ 500.00 of cost. So how is that profit.

    I have said for 20 years, the only one making a profit for autographs are the ones sitting home and forging them. And that is why I get them myself, I do not trust it unless I get it in person.

    The school needs to make sure they treat all patrons equal.

  • Matt Raymond January 19, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story RJK!

  • alex richard January 19, 2012, 6:34 pm

    michelle matt hope everything is alright, after reading the article about what happen i was concerned, maybe you should call elizabeth and see what justin can do for you it sounds like pure harrassment to me,
    alex

  • Matt Raymond January 19, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Thanks Alex, we’re fine :)

  • ddtjman January 19, 2012, 11:05 pm

    I got little good to say about the state of Massachusetts and I’ve lived 26 of my 36 years there. Born in Weymouth, lived in Springfield for 4 years. No surprise you were treated this way. Everything has to be a hassle or rip-off in that state.

  • Matt Raymond January 24, 2012, 7:42 am

    I don’t share the same sentiment about Mass. but I appreciate the comment.

  • RJK January 25, 2012, 1:08 pm

    Forgot to mention.

    On Monday, two youths did even go out onto the end court during a game half time and approached Duke’s Coach K, for autographs. Coach K was sitting at a table right up front center. After getting their autographs, they were removed from the end court area. But, I think that was it. No ejection, no police or security swarming.

    What would have happened to you if you did that?

  • Matt Raymond January 30, 2012, 7:44 am

    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear they didn’t give the kids any trouble. To your point, I’m sure it would have ended differently if we had asked Coach K.

  • James Fosterbrook August 26, 2015, 2:57 am

    You have a first amendment right to photograph. A lawyer who knows what yo do will bring several civil claims against individuals and or organizations on your behalf. Do not delay. Your civil liberties have been violated and you must rectify this situation. Beyond the civil case you can personally charge the rogue wannabe cop with criminal harassment and assault if they touched you. Not to mention the unlawful arrest if one took place. Do it and do not wait.anyone i mean anyone can bring a criminal charge at a court in MA. Its messed up in MA but thats the way it is so do it!!!!

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