Details emerged Thursday about the incident in which Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was struck in the face by the piece of a bobblehead doll thrown from the stands at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Chris Wyche, Sporting Kansas City’s executive vice president for operations, said four men were removed from the section behind Nielsen’s net on Wednesday. Wyche said the club used its high-resolution cameras to identify two men, both wearing Sporting KC gear, who threw objects onto the field. They were arrested by Kansas City, Kan., police.
While the club is confident it has correctly identified the two men who allegedly threw the objects at Nielsen, Wyche was quick to reiterate that an investigation by police detectives is ongoing.
Police have not released the name of the man who is alleged to have thrown the object that struck Nielsen. But police identified Robert Hauver, 21, as the other man arrested Wednesday. He was ticketed for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released from jail Thursday.
“We’re going to support the local authorities to the full extent of prosecution," Wyche said. “The individual who threw the bobblehead that injured Nielsen is going to be charged with felony aggravated battery.”
Hauver is a former Lansing High quarterback who walked on the Kansas State football team in 2008 and redshirted. He was on the roster in 2009 but did not play and is no longer with the team.
“We’re still sorting out and working this out with all the parties involved," Rich Hauver, Robert's father, told The Star on Thursday, "and are certainly very thankful there were no serious injuries.
“We need to learn and move forward.
“For those people that have never made a poor decision in their life, they haven’t lived very long. That doesn’t condone the act. But we’re going to collect the info and deal with it accordingly.”
The incident occurred in the 26th minute of Sporting’s 3-1 win over Portland on Wednesday. Nielsen was walking to the side of his net to drink from his water bottle when he was struck below the eye by the head of an Omar Bravo bobblehead doll — one of 10,000 given out before the game.
Nielsen fell to the ground and laid there for four minutes while he received medical attention. He eventually rose to his feet and finished the game, albeit with a large purple welt and a bandage under his eye.
The bobblehead-tossing incident is the second significant example of fan interference to occur at Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened this season. The first occurred in the club’s home opener against Chicago on June 9, when a man dressed in a cow suit interrupted play by running on the field, unimpeded, for several moments.
Sporting KC is set to have one more bobblehead night this season — this time for defender Aurélien Collin — on Sept. 28. Vice president of communications Rob Thomson said no decision has been made on whether the club will change the distribution of the bobbleheads or cancel the promotion altogether, though club officials will meet — likely this week — to discuss the matter.
Thomson said the club is also working with the unified government and mayor of Kansas City, Kan., on a law that would curb fan interference at games, which could mean mandatory jail time or fines for those who break the rules. Thomson, however, could not give a timetable for when the law could be enacted.