Packers fans sound off on new NFL security rules

9:14 AM, Jun. 14, 2013  |  Comments
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Green Bay Packers fans are bracing for new stadium security rules that prohibit such game-day accessories as fanny packs and seat cushions.

The NFL announced Thursday that the new rules would take effect at Lambeau Field and all other stadiums starting with the upcoming 2013 season.

With the exception of medically necessary items, fans entering the stadium will be required to carry their belongings in small clutch purses, gallon-sized plastic freezer bags or other clear bags no larger than 12 inches long.

Other items specifically prohibited include coolers, backpacks, camera bags, briefcases, cinch bags, computer bags, luggage of any kind, and purses larger than a clutch bag.

Fans at Lambeau Field voiced mixed feelings about the new rules, saying they appreciate the need for safety but worry about no longer being able to enjoy themselves at Packers games.

Kathy Demrow of Orfordville said she generally travels light, so she had no complaint about efforts to beef up security. Demrow said she applauds the league for taking extra precautions to keep stadium crowds safe.

"If it protects somebody, I'm all right with it," she said.

Other fans, however, called the new rules extreme.

Steve Tate of DeForest said he takes photographs at Packers games and always carries a camera bag. Not being allowed to continue using the camera bag will disrupt his game-day ritual and make it difficult to enjoy himself.

Tate likened the new security crackdown to excessive government interference.
"It's Big Brother again coming down on us," he said.

Cameras, binoculars and smartphones still will be permitted inside the stadium.
NFL officials said a league committee on stadium security recommended the new measures in May and team owners approved them. The same measures have worked well at colleges, including Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, which do not permit any bags in their stadiums, officials said.

"Our fans deserve to be in a safe and secure environment," said Jeffrey Miller, the NFL's chief security officer. "Public safety is our top priority. This will make the job of checking items much more efficient and effective. We will be able to deliver a better and quicker experience at the gates and also provide a safer environment. We appreciate our fans' cooperation."

In addition to the existing safeguards of pat downs, bag checks and metal detectors, the NFL wants stadiums to establish secondary buffer areas outside the stadium where personnel will check for prohibited items or bags being carried toward the ballpark. Fans with prohibited bags will be turned away until they dispose of those bags. Stadium personnel are being encouraged to have approved bags on hand to give to fans, or to have a place outside the restricted areas to check items, so that fans can reclaim their belongings after games.

Packers officials issued a statement Thursday saying they "strongly encourage" fans not to bring any bags to the stadium on game days, but that they will permit the limited styles outlined in the new league policy.

The statement also indicated that team officials would consult with the Green Bay Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to determine the best ways of implementing the new security rules.

Doug Collins, security director for the Packers, said in the statement that the team hopes for cooperation from the fans.

"We have appreciated the cooperation of our fans in the past and look forward to their continued support with this enhancement in providing a safe game-day environment," Collins said.

Bruce Westphal of Thorp, another fan visiting Lambeau Field on Thursday, said he recently got season tickets after being on a waiting list for 30 years. Westphal said he usually wears a fanny pack to the games, but he understands the need for tighter security.

"Security is No. 1 - that's the bottom line," he said. "It's a game for family. You have to have fun."

Another fan, Jeanne Wolf of Watertown said she might have to go out and buy a new kind of bag so she has a place to carry her camera, gloves and other game-day necessities.

Wolf said the crackdown on fans is excessive.

"I understand it, but there also comes a point of almost going too far," she said.

Backpacks and other types of bags have been a security concern at public events since the Boston Marathon bombings in April, in which officials believe explosives were concealed in backpacks.

The NFL ramped up security at the player draft in late April, its one major event since the Boston Marathon bombings. In a statement Thursday, the league said: "We had been discussing a new approach to bag restrictions before the Boston Marathon incident. We have come up with a way to do it that will actually make access more convenient for fans than it has been. We think the fans will embrace and appreciate it."

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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