Debunking the “Security” offered by the NFL’s New Bag Policy

Let me just start this post by saying that I’m not the type to instantly argue with authority. When I first heard about the new NFL bag policy, I sort of shrugged and said, “Okay.” But now, I’m pissed.

Let me back up. Some of you may be unaware of this new policy. It limits the number of bags that can be brought in, and dictates that all bags used must be made of clear plastic. Here’s the exact verbage, from NFL.com:

  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.” (Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags will be available through club merchandise outlets or at nflshop.com/allclear), or
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
  • Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap can be taken into the stadium with one of the clear plastic bags.
  •  An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.
  • Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, non-approved seat cushions*, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.

Now, how convenient is it that the NFL has a made a rule that you can only use a specific type of bag, and they JUST HAPPEN to sell that EXACT style of bag? The NFL tried to calm people down by saying that all season ticket holders would receive a free bag. True. However, what they didn’t tell you was it was one bag per ticket holder, not one bag per seat. So, if you own six seats, too bad for you. Here’s your one free bag. Good luck fitting everything your family needs for several hours into it. And yes, ladies, unless you can fit all of your sanitary supplies into your pocket (and we all know how well tampons do when crammed into our jean pockets), or into a tiny clutch (tampons, maybe, but no way will pads for heavy flow, or pads used for urinary incontinence fit), you’ll have to display them for all to see in a clear plastic bag. Nice, huh? Really inspires camaraderie among fans when you can sit and discuss your dependence on Depends.

The NFL also makes a point of saying that they encourage fans to bring no bags at all. Think about that. We spend approximately six hours in the stadium on game day. This is an outdoor field, in Denver Colorado, meaning we have to plan for many types of weather. Many people bring children. Unless you want to dole out hundreds of dollars to vendors, you pack smart and bring food and non-alcoholic beverages with you. How realistic is it to bring no bag at all? Yes, some people manage. I’m not one of them.

Still, my husband and I sucked it up and tried to make the best of it. We’ve been season ticket holders for years, and something like this wasn’t going to ruin our love of the Denver Broncos. We double checked the policy on the Broncos website and found the same info, verbatim.

Hubby went to the first home game (I had to stay home because I’d just had surgery) and reported no problems. He had his jacket, his lunch, a bottle of water, his cigarettes, and his binoculars (in their case) in his clear plastic bag. No issues. Week 2 was played away, so no game at Mile High. But it seems that since Week 1, somebody, either in the NFL or at Mile High Stadium, decided they weren’t screening hard enough. And so last night at the Denver/Oakland Monday Night Football Game, the gate-checkers upped their game. To the dismay of many fans.

My daughter had this purse in her room. It’s clear. It’s plastic. It’s within the size limit.

purse

 

You can clearly see my knit gloves, my sunglasses, and my back-up phone battery (lest I run out of juice during the game, because I can’t have that happen). The only difference between that photo and what I was carrying last night is that my phone was in the purse too (but I had to take it out to take this photo), and our game tickets were in it. The “advance screeners” (stadium folk who stand at the bottom of the steps, before you reach the gate, to make sure you’re ready) told me this was fine. But when I got to the gate, I was informed that this bag is not “clear.”

HUH?

photo 1 photo 2

Looks pretty god damn “clear” to me.

We were then told that the bag must be untinted.

Now, go back and read the NFL’s policy. Read through the same policy on the Broncos website. Do you see the word “untinted”anywhere? Me neither. Upon arriving home, I Googled and could not find a single reference to “untinted” bags in any of the NFL or stadium policies. I searched for “tinted plastic.” I found this article, posted on the website for the Houston Texans.

I live in Colorado. It did not occur to me to check the website for the Texans before leaving for a Broncos game. Why the hell would it?

I then searched for “colored plastic,” and didn’t find a reference until the third page of Google results, in an article on Plastic News. No kidding. You can’t find this info on any football site, but it IS on Plastic News. (And who even knew there was a website devoted to news about plastic?) Even on Plastic News, you have to scroll down and read the words under each image on the “prohibited bags” picture sheet to catch it.

So, after being informed that my clear plastic bag wasn’t clear enough, we emptied everything out of it and put it into the approved bag. We then wadded up the EMPTY plastic bag and stuck it into the other bag.

“You can’t do that,” the man at the gate said.

Never mind that it’s empty. Because, you see, it’s apparently not a matter of what might be IN the bag. It’s the bag itself. Being made of clear, colored plastic apparently makes it a threat. We were told take it back to the car, but like approximately 25,000 other Broncos fans, we take the RTD bus in from the Park and Ride on the edge of town. Our car was at the P&R at 120th, approximately 15 miles away. The buses don’t start return trips until the second half of the game. We were then told we could check our bag at their convenient bag check tent. This turned out to be okay since we totally crushed the Raiders, and people were trickling out during the entire last half of the game. We always stay until the end, and so the line to reclaim our bag was short, since the stadium was already 90% empty. But had this been a close game, when all 76,000 fans stayed until the end? I can’t imagine how long that line would have been.

Now, here’s the thing: the NFL claims they’re doing this to keep us safe. If that were the case, they’d be checking the approved bags. But they’re not. As long as you have an approved bag, they barely glance at it, even if it’s so full of jackets/blankets/etc that you can’t actually see what’s in it.

photo 1

This bag, you see, is completely acceptable, without more than a cursory glance. But my pink bag is a threat.

Seriously, folks: which bag is most likely to contain a bomb?

The second issue we had was that the NFL no longer allows you to have a binocular case. You can bring in your binoculars, but not in a case. So, that $400 pair you gifted yourself with? You can either shove it unprotected into your approved bag, or you can wear them around your neck for the entire game.

But shouldn’t the size of the bag, as specified in the rules, apply to binocular cases too? Because the policy says you can bring in “small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap.” The lady next to me had a purse roughly the size of a very thick paperback novel. That was allowed. Here is our binocular case, with the binoculars inside:

photo 3 photo 2

It is, without any doubt, “approximately the size of a hand.” But we can’t bring it in. After removing the binoculars from the case, I shoved the empty case into the back pocket of my jeans. It fits there, no problem. I was told that isn’t allowed.

Let’s stop now to refer back to the official NFL policy. In the FAQ section, it says, “We are limiting only the type of bags carried into the stadium, not items that you normally bring to a game. Therefore, you can carry in your pockets or jacket keys [sic], makeup, feminine products, comb, phone, wallet, credit cards, etc.” But, my binoculars, IN THEIR CASE, are an item that I normally bring to a game, along with thousands of other fans. Another source says, “Blankets are still allowed, as are gloves, hats and other items that can be stuffed in pockets or worn.”

But NOT, it seems, if that item is a binocular case.

I can only conclude, my friends, that the real issue here is the case itself. IT MUST BE A THREAT. After all, it’s not the fact that they can’t see what’s in the case. They can look at it and SEE that it’s empty, because they’ve made you take the binocs out and hang them around your neck. It’s not the size of the bag, which clearly falls within the “clutch” rule AND the pocket rule. But the bag itself is still a threat. Somehow, cases designed for binoculars are dangerous. Keep in mind, you can bring in one of those giant pairs of binoculars that’s roughly the size of a small dog, but not this protective case.

And speaking of dogs…

The policy for Mile High Stadium states that you can’t bring in dogs, except for service dogs, and yet we saw not one, but TWO dogs at the game. And that was just in our little section of the stadium! And I have no reason to believe these were service dogs. Here’s one of them being carried out after the game by his owner:

photo 1The other dog we saw was a miniature pinscher, in a purse.

Read that sentence again.

The dog was IN A PURSE. Not in a clutch. Not in a clear plastic bag. But in a PURSE designed to hold dogs.

So, just to sum it up:

You can’t bring in your dog.

You can’t bring in your purse.

But if you put your dog IN your purse, THEN it’s apparently okay.

Got it.

For folks who live in warm states, or if your team plays in a dome, this may all seem rather irrelevant. But for those of us who have to deal with inclement weather at our games, this is going to become a very big issue as we move into winter. Yes, you can wear your warm clothes in. But that’s only if the game STARTS OUT cold. At our seats in the north end zone, level five of Mile High Stadium, it is not uncommon for the temperature to fluctuate as much as thirty degrees between kickoff and the end of the game. That is NOT an exaggeration. During the first half of the game, we’re in the sun, and being surrounded by all those dark blue plastic seats is like standing on blacktop. It’s often significantly warmer there than the ambient temperature would imply. But around halftime, the sun goes behind the west side of the stadium (and soon after that, behind the mountains), and the temperature plummets. We’ve been to multiple games over the years where it was in the 70s for the first half, but in the 40s by the end of the game. The vendors sell lemonade slushies in the first half, and hot chocolate in the second.

How does one dress for a game like this? In the past, we took multiple layers, shoved into our backpack. But we really can’t fit all the gear we’ll need into one gallon-size ziplock bag, and wearing that much winter attire while climbing to the fifth level in 70-degree weather is going to kill a few people dead. I’d say heat stroke is a much more dire threat than my clear plastic purse that happens to be pink. Even more of a threat than my clutch-size binocular case.

The NFL claims this policy is to keep us safe. They also say repeatedly that this is for our convenience.

I can barely type that last sentence without rolling my eyes. Does any of this sound “convenient” to you? And yet, this remains the NFL’s go-to line: This is for the convenience of fans. They claim it speeds up gate access. Here’s the thing: Mile High Stadium has ALWAYS had express lanes at each gate for those folks who manage to bring no bag at all. So those of you who are efficient have NEVER had to wait behind those of us who like to come prepared. And those of us who bring bags know and accept that our line will be longer. We’re fine with that.

With the new bag rule in place, the express lane moves at the same pace it always did. Admittedly, the other lane moves a bit fast, but that’s only because they’re barely glancing into the “approved” bags, even if they can’t see what’s in them. THIS, football fans, is how they’re keeping us SAFE?

Stop kidding yourself.

The men at the gate repeatedly told us that this was not their policy, that they’re also the victims here. That’s true. For those of you who work the gates, the NFL is telling you that you’re not intelligent enough to properly screen fans. You, with your years of experience, may look at an “approved” bag that’s full of clothing, and then look at my empty binocular case, and deem the former more dangerous than the latter. That would be the logical assumption to make. But the NFL doesn’t trust you to do that.

So, I would like to say to the NFL, we are are not safer. At all. As long as there are human beings at games, and we’re allowed to wear clothing, there is the possibility of a threat. We know this. (I better be careful. They’ll require us all to be naked next year.) Letting people in with an approved bag that hasn’t been checked, and yet taking away an empty binocular case, does NOTHING to keep your fans safe. We’re colder, because we can’t bring in all our clothing. We’re less able to watch the game, because we end up leaving our binoculars at home. We’re more exposed, because every item we have that won’t fit in pockets (ie, tampons or pads) must be exposed to the world. We’re less comfortable, because you’ve taken away half of our seat cushions. We’re poorer, because we now must spend money on your lovely “approved” bags and your “approved” seat cushions. And we’re angrier, because you’re inconveniencing us and taking even more of our money and telling us it’s for our good. Yes, we are many things, NFL. But please, don’t try to tell me that we’re one bit safer than we were in the past. And don’t tell me I’m supposed to be happy about it.

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5 Responses to Debunking the “Security” offered by the NFL’s New Bag Policy

  1. Marie Sexton says:

    As a bit of a follow-up: a friend of friend told me last week on Facebook that he recently snuck four 24-ounce bottles of beer into Mile High Stadium by putting them in his clear plastic bag. Further proof that this policy cannot POSSIBLY be improving our safety, since nobody’s bothering to check the contents of the “approved” bags.

  2. Ernest says:

    As if life itself isn’t complicated enough, they have to add all this?! What will happen when they turn away so many fans and the crowd of a few can’t support a team? Security is becoming a problem with all the shootings but it would be easier to just stop the world and let me off. There has to be an easier way.

    • Marie Sexton says:

      Yes, it’s really annoying. The thing is, I’ll put up with a bit of inconvenience if the rules make sense, and actually work to make people safer. However, this rule does neither.

      • Ernest says:

        Obviously from your posting, not everyone has to follow the new rules. So this is not about making anyone safe. It is about something other than security. Just what, I can’t tell.

    • Marie Sexton says:

      The thing is, people have already paid for the seats (which aren’t cheap), so they’re usually willing to go check their bag or take it to the car or whatever. The NFL sort of has them over a barrel.