How are the Red Sox going to enforce a lifetime ban anyway?

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Last week the Red Sox made news by issuing a lifetime ban to a fan who used racial slurs at Fenway Park. The most common question I’ve heard about asking about that is how, exactly, does a baseball team enforce a lifetime ban?

Teams don’t check IDs at the gate. There are facial recognition systems and cameras in place at some sporting events around the world, but that technology is (a) in its infancy; and (b) primarily aimed at dealing with criminal and terrorist threats, not individual fan bans over relatively mundane matters like general jackwagonry. In light of that, is a lifetime ban more of a symbolic gesture than anything?

Alex Reimer of WEEI.com spoke to the club about that. There’s a bit more to it than merely hoping someone rats out the guy who got banned if he shows up, but not much more to it. They’ve flagged his credit card so he can’t purchase tickets directly from the Red Sox with that card, but he could use StubHub or have a friend buy him tickets, so it’s not exactly airtight.

Mostly it’s just the honor system and the threat of a trespassing beef if he’s caught in Fenway. The spokesman:

“We know this isn’t a perfect or infallible system. And we recognize that enforcing it will be a difficult thing to do. But if the person is willing to take a risk and come back to the ballpark, there are actions that can be taken if they’re caught.”

Not much else you can do, really. But then again, my view of this is that the idea here isn’t specifically about keeping this one fan out of Fenway Park. It’s about the organization signaling to fans what it considers to be inappropriate behavior at the ballpark and using this guy’s ban as an example. Even if it lacks the sharpest teeth, I suspect people will be a bit more careful about displaying their jackwagonry while taking in a Sox game.