Panthers fan, claiming security put him in chokehold, sues Cowboys

A Carolina Panthers fan claims he was put in a chokehold by security when the Cowboys hosted the Panthers on Thanksgiving Day.
A Carolina Panthers fan claims he was put in a chokehold by security when the Cowboys hosted the Panthers on Thanksgiving Day. Star-Telegram

A Carolina Panthers fan who said he was put in a chokehold by security at a Dallas Cowboys game last year has sued the franchise.

John Small and his mother, Elva Small, are seeking $25,000, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Buncombe County, N.C.

Andy Frain Services, an Illinois-based security provider contracted by the Cowboys, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The incident happened on Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day, when the Cowboys hosted the Panthers at AT&T Stadium.

Late in the game, John Small was standing and holding a homemade sign when a security official told him to sit down, according to the lawsuit.

“Mr. Small’s behavior, while enthusiastic, was not disruptive,” the lawsuit says.

When Small refused to sit down, several more members of the security team approached and told him to leave the stadium, according to the lawsuit.

Small, who traveled to Arlington for the one-year anniversary of his father’s death, didn’t want to leave.

“Mr. Small did not want to miss seeing his father’s favorite team, the Carolina Panthers, defeat the Dallas Cowboys, a victory only moments away,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Small did not pose any safety threats to the fans or security, or violate the stadium’s code of conduct.

When Small began walking in the aisle toward the exit, a member of the security team “hit him in the back,” the lawsuit says.

“This blow caused Mr. Small to stumble slightly, and then the security team member came up behind Mr. Small, and wrapped his arm around Mr. Small’s neck from the back, bending his elbow and tightening his arm to create a chokehold,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that security team members ignored Small’s “sign of surrender” after he raised his hands in the air.

John Small suffered “painful bruising” on his neck and chest and began to experience panic attacks, the lawsuit says. His mother suffered “severe emotional distress,” it says.

The lawsuit says the Cowboys “may contract out the actual work of keeping the stadium secure, but retains liability when stadium security is negligent and as a result, damages occur.”

The Cowboys declined to comment on the lawsuit. Andy Frain Services could not be reached for comment.

An online video shows Small being placed in a headlock by a man in an orange security shirt. At one point, the fan escapes the guard’s grasp before leaving the lower bowl section on his own.