Eric Johnson's experience at January's NFC Championship game in Philadelphia was not as horrible as it was for some Minnesota Vikings fans. But it wasn't exactly a walk in the park, either, and that led the West Fargo resident to complain to the National Football League.
It appears his voice is being heard, along with the voices of many other Vikings fans.
The NFL has spent the past several weeks investigating ugly behavior exhibited by some Eagles fans at the Jan. 21 game and, according to an email sent by the league's chief security officer, "will publicly announce changes that will be implemented going forward."
According to a Facebook post made by a member of a Vikings fan group, NFL senior vice president and chief security officer Cathy Lanier wrote, "We believe the interviews will help inform some recommendations going forward. ... We want to incorporate any lessons learned into future improvements."
An email sent to Lanier asking for comment was returned by a league spokesman.
"We have been speaking to some fans who attended the game to learn more about their experience," the NFL's Brian McCarthy said in an email. He did not reply to an email asking for more details.
A Vikings spokesman declined comment.
That the Vikings were routed by the Eagles 38-7 at Lincoln Financial Field was the least nasty thing that happened that day for many Minnesota fans, most of whom traveled from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The notoriously rough Eagles fans, fueled by alcohol during hours of tailgating, infamously acted like thugs to Vikings fans in parking lots before the game and inside the stadium during it. They threw full beer cans, threatened to rape some female fans and unleashed a verbal, vulgar assault on anybody wearing purple or cheering for the Vikings.
Most of the Vikings fans who experienced the ugliness felt the Philadelphia police and stadium security did little to protect them.
So some of them banded together and complained. Members of a Facebook group named "Minnesota Vikings Tailgating" wrote emails to the NFL, the Vikings and the Eagles sharing details of their experience.
"What happened shouldn't be acceptable at any event in 2018," said Johnson, a sales and leasing consultant at Corwin Toyota in Fargo. "Somebody had to say something and see if something could be done about it. It was a dangerous situation for a lot of Vikings fans who went to Philadelphia."
The league took notice. The NFL, with help from the Philadelphia police, has been contacting Vikings fans for the past several weeks with phone calls and emails. They've asked fans to detail their experience in Philadelphia and to share any video they took.
Johnson and others in the Facebook group say NFL investigators and Philadelphia police detectives have had lengthy phone conversations and followed up via email to get as many details as possible. Johnson said he spent about 45 minutes on the phone with NFL security.
"The person I talked with from the NFL was really sympathetic and seemed genuinely mad at what happened," Johnson said. "The police detective from Philadelphia, I thought, was more just going through the motions. But he did send an email that included our conversation and asked me to look it over, correct any errors and sign it."
Johnson said his experience was mild compared to others. He arrived at Lincoln Financial Field about 3 p.m. When the Uber driver stopped in a busy area, Johnson opened the car door and tried to get out. But a Philadelphia cop slammed the door on his leg and said, "You can't get out here!" Johnson tried to get out again, but the officer slammed the door on his leg a second time and angrily yelled at him. Johnson said he and the passengers he shared the Uber ride with were confused, and one of them left their cell phone in the back of the car because of it.
Johnson said he witnessed some of the nastiness on his walk to the stadium and during the game, although none of it was directed at him. He said he left the game, though, with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, fearing for his safety because of what he saw happening around him.
"I went out there as a Vikings fan who also was a Carson Wentz fan and somewhat of an Eagles fan because I live and work in this area," Johnson said, referring to the former North Dakota State quarterback who is a star for the Eagles. "I'm no longer an Eagles fan whatsoever."
Some of the fans who contacted the NFL, including Johnson, are seeking to be reimbursed for the cost of their ticket to the game. Johnson said he spent $700 on a ticket. Others, though, want the NFL, the Eagles and Philly police to ramp up security for visiting fans at games.
One member of the Facebook group, Kelli Anderson of Iowa, posted that she wrote to Lanier, the league head of security, wanting to know specifically what the league planned to do-especially since some media outlets are reporting the Vikings will open the 2018 season at Philadelphia on Sept. 6 in a Thursday night affair.
"Having an evening game at Lincoln Financial Field before the Eagles organization, stadium management and the police department have proven they can maintain the safety and security of all in attendance is a major mistake on the NFL's part," Anderson wrote on March 19.
Anderson posted the next day that Lanier responded with an email that said, in part:
"Everyone involved in the security of our fans has been briefed on our efforts and continues to work with us to ensure an enjoyable gameday environment. Once we have completed our review, we will publicly announce changes that will be implemented going forward. We anticipate doing so in advance of the start of the 2018 season. With regard to the schedule, our goal is to make sure that every NFL event is safe for both home and visiting fans."
That would be at least some consolation to the Vikings fans who were abused at the NFC Championship game.