NFL’s no-purse rule is controversial with women fans

Those black stilettos still pass muster, too.

But that massive red Louis Vuitton bag must stay at home when attending Falcons’ games at the Georgia Dome.

The NFL, in the name of security, will implement 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.

The Falcons’ crowd is one of the more stylish in the NFL, and one broadcaster, Jamie Dukes of NFL Network and 92.9 The Game, has dubbed the Georgia Dome “Club Crunk” for the festive party and fashion show that’s wrapped around the football game.

“People wear their heels, nice outfits and have matching beautiful red-and-black purses,” said Sharon Ferguson, web content and fan interaction manager of howicit.net, an Atlanta-based sports, entertainment and life website that covers the Falcons. “That’s part of the Atlanta culture. They are already checking our bags. They give us the wand and the pat down. That’s why this is so confusing.”

So, it’s no surprise that the league’s ban of purses and bags is not playing well with the Atlanta fan base, especially the women.

“Women I spoke to, while they understand the reasoning behind the policy, feel that it is a big inconvenience to women who carry personal feminine-hygiene items and baby items in their bags,” Ferguson said. “In the past, there was a separate female line that was discontinued last year. Most feel that the policy will not make things any safer than they are.”

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.”

Georgia Dome officials will meet with the Falcons soon to determine how to implement the policy. The security team, which is in the process of training the Georgia Dome staff on the changes, plans to enforce the new policy as seamlessly and in as unintrusive a manner to the fans as possible.

“We want to try to get the message out to them as early as possible (through) the media and any other outlets that we can,” said Carl Herron, the Georgia Dome’s security manager. “I believe it will make it a little faster and efficient because of the clear bags will be only examined once they get into the lines to get into the stadium.”

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 Boston bombing) was just another factor to consider,” Miller said. “Really, it comes down to this, our fans absolutely deserve to be in a safe and secure environment. Public safety with (NFL) commissioner Roger Goodell and our owners is a No. 1 priority.”

The league contends that the policy will speed the entry process into the stadium.

“We realize that fans value being in a safe environment, but they also want to spend less time in line entering the stadium,” Miller said. “So, the new policy provides both greater safety and expedited entry into the stadiums for our fans.”

The league considered having a special line for people who still wanted to bring their bags or purses into the game, but nixed the idea for security reasons.

Entering the games is starting to resemble airport screening, which also has been greatly enhanced over the past decade. Under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the NFL created an advisory group to set up the best practices for stadium security.

The Georgia Dome has received the highest marks for compliance in the nation from the league, according to a spokeswoman.

“Now, our stadium best practices are certified by (Department of Homeland Security) under the Safety Act,” Miller said. “We’ve made a number of tweaks and adjustments over the years. We did pat downs, enhanced pat downs. Now, we do full metal-detector screening of our fans coming into the stadium. This is another step. We are asking our fans to consider not bringing bags.”

The league said it polled some of its female fans and believe they will adjust to the new rules.

“The way I think we can handle this is that if you bring the ‘clutch bag’ and have some private items that you do not want in a clear bag, then you can put it in the ‘clutch bag’ (and put it) inside the larger plastic bag or you can just hold it in your hand and still bring the larger plastic bag,” Miller said. These bags that we are permitting are very accommodating in size.”

Miller said teams will make provisions for fans that need to bring in medically necessary items. “We will always look out for people that have special needs,” Miller said.

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