NFL's New Bag Policy a Disservice to Female Fans
By: The Football Girl | Posted: June 13, 2013
Today the league announced a new policy greatly restricting the type and size of bags fans are allowed to bring into NFL stadiums beginning this preseason. Only small bags made of plastic, vinyl or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) are allowed, with the maximum size not exceeding 12’’x 6” x 12”. The rationale being presented is to boost public safety, despite no known incidents of suspicious packages inside the confines of an NFL stadium.
"Our fans deserve to be in a safe and secure environment," said Jeffrey Miller, NFL vice president and chief security officer. "Public safety is our top priority.”
What the league considers an improvement to public safety, I consider a setback for all fans, particularly women. Women carry purses. It is a multi-million dollar industry – yes, because of the fashion, but mostly because of the functionality. By asking women to leave their purses at home – and based on the restrictions, I mean asking every woman to leave her purse at home – the league is disconnecting from a fan base they are supposedly working so hard to expand. The usual collection of purse items like wallets, makeup, brushes, phones, and if we’re being honest, certain monthly products are mostly going to have to find another home for women attending games. The league is certainly well aware of the importance of carrying a bag to a women; that’s why they’ve been selling team-logoed purses at stadiums and NFLShop.com for years. (I purchased this now-obsolete 49ers bag at an official Candlestick Park store an hour before the 49ers-Saints divisional playoff game in early 2012. Will the league be offering me a refund?)
All fans are affected by the newfound difficultly in bringing along critical weather-related items, like raincoats and hoodies necessary in non-domed stadiums with shifting weather patterns. Fanny packs and seat cushions are among the long list of specifically prohibited items. Is the NFL planning to follow a TSA model by restricting these items to fans outside, only to sell them for an astonishing upcharge once inside? That would be shocking, I know.
If the NFL really wants to create a safer environment they’ll target the unruly nature of fandom, like beefing up parking lot security. Following the 49ers-Raiders preseason game in 2011, there was a massive postgame fight involving a gunshot and one fan beaten to unconsciousness. Now THAT’s a public safety issue. Or how about instead of posting a number to text in the event of unruly fans, boost stadium technology so the text messages actually have a shot at being received?
Speeding up entry into a stadium is fine but should baggage size really be the primary target of fan safety reform? Of course not. If it was really such a grave concern, why not restrict all forms of baggage? Last I heard they make dangerous items under the size of 12” x 6” x 12” too.
[The NFL prepared for backlash such as this by creating a separate NFL.com page to rationalize this policy to fans. None of the answers in the NFL’s self-created Q and A make this policy right, in my opinion, however I did get a chuckle out of this - Q: What about bringing blankets in cold weather? A: Fans will be able to bring blankets by tossing them over a shoulder or arm as they do in Green Bay.]
UPDATE: After reader Loni Carter brought up the issue of diaper bags on our Facebook page, I emailed a prominent league spokesman about their policy on this issue and received the following response: "This is something that we contemplated. We are sports fans and attend events throughout the year, too, and took a long look at possible concerns people would have. Simply put the contents of the diaper bag into an approved bag. If there are necessary medical items for the child there would be an exception made after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose. The 12x6x12 bag is a decent size and can fit diapers, bottles, wipes, etc. I had a to go bag that size for my kids that worked well on day trips. And it's one bag per person so other family members would be able to help."
UPDATE No. 2: I have had some correspondence today with the same NFL spokesmen who provided the statement above on diaper bags. He took issue with several elements of this article. First off, he reiterated that fan safety is the priority within this policy and swifter entrance into stadiums is simply an added benefit. Boston was cited as a factor behind this new policy, and the spokesmen illustrated the NFL’s previous increased fan safety measures, including beefed-up parking lot security, after the 2011 incident mentioned in this article. He also mentioned that all NFL stadiums have been donning signage with numbers to text for reporting unruly fan behavior for three to five years, depending on the venue.
In response to my assertion that dangerous items could also be placed in bags less than 12x6x12, he reminded me that all fans are “wanded” for metals. And most importantly, he wanted to be clear that bags are still allowed in stadiums (albeit at a significant reduction in size for many women – my words, not his).
While I appreciate his candor and clarifications, I’m still not a fan of the rule. I just don’t see a strong correlation between a smaller bag and increased safety. As mentioned, all fans are wanded, which is a more reliable protection against weapons than some arbitrary bag size limit. And even if there was some small increase in fan safety, those interests still need to be balanced against the substantial inconvenience that this rule creates for many fans.
To me, the big mistake here was timing. If the policy were announced in the days following Boston, I wouldn’t have written a word or given it much thought because it would have seemed an appropriate response given the climate of fear throughout the country two months ago. But announcing it now, well after arrests were made and calm was restored, is quizzical. And the league’s supplementary NFL.com page, All Clear on this policy specifically states that while Boston was a factor this policy was in the works before April.
The NFL has made such an investment in recent years to boost female engagement, yet this policy can be easily construed as discriminatory toward our gender, even if unintentional. Especially if the league truly thinks the average women can fit her the contents of her current purse into something the size of a hand.