Monday, August 19, 2013

NFL's Not Transparent with Its New All Clear Policy

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know my disdain for the NFL's new "All Clear" policy. As an NFL Season Ticket holder whose ticket cost went up by about 57% this year without changing seats, the last thing I wanted was for insult to be added to my pocketbook's injury.

If you still need background, the NFL owners decided in the offseason to implement a stronger security policy. That's great. I'm all for security. I may not be the most paranoid person in the world, but I appreciate that a terrorist may like to blow up a stadium with 60,000 - 100,000 people inside. So yay for security! But the NFL didn't just increase security; they lied while doing it. I'm assuming the NFL took a cue from the NSA here and figured that lying is OK if it's in the interest of security. Well, as the NSA is learning, lying to the American people is simply not cool (just look at any recent op-ed page).

One of the NFL's new security initiatives is its new All Clear policy. This policy restricts the types of bags that are permitted into NFL stadiums. In the NFL's own words, at, only the following types of bags are permitted into NFL stadiums during the 2013-14 NFL season.
  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.”
  • Small clutch bags [no larger than 4.5" x 6.5"], 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.
On the surface, I'll admit this doesn't seem too bad. They're not allowing diaper bags, which is the kicker for those of us with kids. If you have kids, you know that diaper bags consist not only of diapers, but of wipes, changes of clothes for those inevitable leakages, hand sanitizer, and changing pads. Those items alone probably wouldn't fit into a clear plastic gallon-size bag (or even two). That makes the policy very inconvenient, especially when, as season ticket holders, we can go to up to 10 regular season games each year.

But if you see us go to an MLB stadium, our normal cargo consists of my Coach purse (which is not at all a clutch), our Skip Hop Dash diaper bag, a cooler bag with our meal, and a reusable shopping bag full of snacks and bottled water. All shoved into our Uppababy Vista or G-Luxe stroller. We never have issues with security lines and we always offer all of our bags to check.

Maybe if I wasn't such a horrible packer, I'd manage with just a few bags. But I always pack to much. It's probably the Jewish mother in me, but I only fly Southwest just to have that baggage allowance. And trust me, we literally use every ounce and piece of that baggage allowance. So, you can imagine my horror to think that it could take me an hour to pack us correctly for a family outing using our season tickets.

As a rational person who didn't want to rush to judgement, I decided to read the full pdf of the NFL's policy. The policy states, in pertinent part:
This public safety measure is being successfully used at other large venues. The University of Michigan, Penn State University and Michigan State University do not permit any bags, while the TD Garden in Boston only permits clutch bags.
Naturally, I wanted to see the policies of these venues for myself. Unsurprisingly, the NFL miscategorized each and every policy they listed here. Here's the rundown:

Michigan Stadium's website cites the following:
 Prohibited Items
All bags (including purses)... 
Medical exceptions will be addressed individually at the gates. Those requiring necessary items (i.e. diapers for a baby, medical prescriptions, etc.) are encouraged to carry them into the stadium in a clear plastic bag.
Admittedly, UMich's policy is more restrictive than the NFL's policy. However, the NFL stated, "The University of Michigan... [does] not permit any bags." UMich does permit clear plastic bags in limited circumstances.

Beaver Stadium's website cites the following:
Article [stet] and items that may not be brought into the stadium:
Bags, including diaper bags and purses larger than 8-1/2"x11"x11"
Last I checked, bags 8.5"x11"x11" and smaller were still bags. Thus, the NFL is incorrect when it stated, "Penn State University... [does] not permit any bags."

Spartan Stadium's website cites the following:
Prohibited Items
Bags larger than 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" x 2" (including purses, fanny packs, backpacks, and diaper bags)
Like UMich and Penn State, MSU allows bags. They may not be big bags, but they're not required to be clear and they're larger than the clutches the NFL is permitting.

Finally, the NFL cited TD Garden as only allowing "clutch bags." TD Garden's website is slightly confusing when it states:
All guests will be subject to search, at TD Garden’s discretion, of their person and/or possessions (including women’s handbags of normal size that may be allowed entry after such search).... 
Prohibited Items
...Bags or briefcases
I admittedly didn't quite know the meaning of "normal size." Fortunately, I hail from the Boston area and I have a high school friend who attends many games at the Gahhden. In her words:
They basically let in any size purse or diaper bag after they have been searched, but they don't let in backpacks and laptop bags. They've gotten much stricter since the Boston Marathon bombings about checking all bags and not allowing oversize bags in...
A woman's "purse" the size of a suitcase will get in but a guy coming from work with a laptop gets turned away.
I may not be the fashionista on accessories, but I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a suitcase as small as a 4.5"x6.5" clutch.

Final Thoughts

I wouldn't mind the NFL's All Clear policy as much if I didn't have kids. In fact, I miss the days when I could go to an amusement park with all my money shoved into a little wrist pack and could go on roller coasters bag-free. But, I also expect that a professional sports league that got close to $1,600 in tickets alone from me this year to at least have the decency to fact-check. It's as if the NFL hired the same interns the NTSB did this summer.

So, NFL, if you're reading this blog post, please change your policy. Or at least quote the policies of other stadiums correctly. If you don't, I'm just going to assume Dan Snyder came up with this policy to ensure that never again would anyone be turned away from FedEx field for wearing paper bags over their heads or bringing signs into the stadium.