Georgia Dome officials held “hundreds” of purses for fans during the Falcons game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
Despite widespread publicity since the new policy was announced by the National Football League in June, several Falcons fans clearly didn’t get the memo.
“I think the biggest thing was the awareness,” said Jason Kirksey, Georgia Dome spokesman. “There were still some people that showed up at the gates that weren’t aware of the rule.”
The NFL, in the name of security, has implemented a “no outside bag” policy league-wide for the 2013 season. Fans can purchase a huge clear bag to bring their items into the game.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the league stopped just short of banning all bags and purses from stadiums.
“I know that very large venues around the country, the University of Michigan, Penn State University and Michigan State University, those are large venues that have ‘no bag’ policies in place,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s chief security officer. “If it can work at a stadium like the University of Michigan, it can work at NFL stadiums. But we are even giving our fans that extra opportunity if they really believe that they need to bring a bag into our stadiums.”
Fans can still bring in their items, but they must be in clear bags that do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags or in small clutch bags
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist bombings, the league has annually reviewed its entrance procedures. The recent attack at the Boston Marathon was acknowledged as part of the reason for the new bag policy.
The Georgia Dome was in a bind because the policy was an unfunded mandate from the league.
“The NFL asked us to implement the policy and they just said, ‘here’s the policy,’” Kirksey said. “What we did was take it a step farther.”
Last night, fans were allowed to check their purses and were given free clear bags. After the game, they could retrieve their bags or purses.
The check-ins were set up in a couple of parking lots, outside the gates and in the Falcons Landing area.
Some fans took to twitter to call the policy sexist.
"All I want is to get to the game. I mean good gosh, I bought tickets for $500. This is stupid," John Wilkerson told WSB-TV.
Fans lined up at bag check stations before and after the game.
"Our bags are just sitting on a rack. There's going to be at least 10,000 people with bags here and it's sitting in the middle of the parking lot," Kimberly Love told Channel 2's Wendy Corona.
Vanita Jefferson said workers gave her purse to someone else.
"I was really upset about not getting my purse back because that was over a $200 purse and you don't get it back," Jefferson said.
The NFL contends that the policy makes for a safer environment and will help fans get through the gates faster.
"With all of the terrorism going on we definitely need to be safe at all angles," said Falcons fan Lewis Roberts to WSB-TV.
Some fans including Dianne Juhan embraced the change.
"I'm prepared," she said. "I brought something small, a clutch."
Some fans knew about the new rule and forgot or they thought it wouldn’t be enforced.
“When we play Jacksonville for that last exhibition game on Aug. 29, fans can expect the same thing,” Kirksey said. “If you don’t need it, leave it at home. This policy is not going away. It’s an NFL initiative that we’re going to enforce the entire season.”