Football Fans Show Devotion with Stadium Scatterings

Recently, unauthorized cremated remains were discovered at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field and it made us wonder: How common a practice is stadium scattering?

The choice to spread cremated remains (or “ashes”) at the field and/or stadium of a favorite team is both frustrating and humbling to colleges and professional teams alike. It is generally not allowed but sometimes happens surreptitiously without permission.

It’s just one of the more unusual places to scatter cremated remains.

The cremated remains are hard on the grass and soil, as a professor at Auburn told the Washington Post several years ago after an incident at the Iron Bowl.

And fans aren’t the only ones who want their loved ones at the game. The Green Bay Packers’ running back Aaron Jones recently lost — and then found — a pendant with his father’s cremated remains after a game. The team approved pockets for his uniform so he could safely keep the pendant with him for future games. “I think it’s something I’ll continue to do, just keep my dad with me everywhere I go,” Jones said.

We checked with some Pac-12 teams to see if ash incidents were common at Western college football fields.

USC’s Katie Ryan says she has not heard of specific instances of scattering, but the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s Kevin Daly says they do receive requests from time to time, but not enough to quantify. Daly told Solace, “We don’t accept it because the ashes are not helpful to the integrity of the playing surface.”

The University of Oregon’s Jimmy Stanton says he is not aware of any incidents by Ducks fans at Autzen Stadium. And rival Beavers at Oregon State University report to Solace concisely that scattering is “not allowed.” Communications staff at Stanford and the University of Utah said they were unaware of similar incidents.

Still, stadium and field scatterings by family members of devoted college and professional football fans persist from time to time.

  • In January 2021, Kristen Kimmick brought her dad’s ashes to Kansas’ Arrowhead Stadium “as a loving tribute to the ultimate fan” spreading the ashes at her seat. “He’s a season ticket holder for eternity now,” she said.
  • At the 2014 Iron Bowl, someone scattered remains at Jordan-Hare Stadium. A tweet of the incident went viral.
  • “This is for you, mom,” said Christopher Noteboom who was arrested in 2011 after spreading his mother’s ashes at a game between the Eagles and Packers.

For those who love the global game of football (i.e. soccer to U.S. fans), some UK teams allow scattering or have scattering gardens. Baseball fans have been known to do it, too.

Auburn professor Scott McElroy told the Washington Post a few years ago that though the practice is discouraged, it is common “everywhere” on golf courses and fields in the U.S.

McElroy says despite the headaches the scatterings create, it is also an honor, “And even though it’s a problem for so many people, we also have to remember it’s a tremendous honor, because this person, you wish you could allow them to do it, because they love this place so much, that even after they have gone, they want to be a part of it, still.”

Photo by Ameer Basheer

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