Bag ban gets its first test Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium

If you’re headed to Arrowhead Friday night, pack light.

Chiefs fans, especially women, may find getting through the gates about as difficult as trying to board an airplane.

Bags or backpacks? Nope, at least for most of them.

Women’s purses? Only if they’re no bigger than a hand.

It’s all part of a new NFL policy that allows only tiny purses and clear plastic bags such as a gallon-size zip-close bag.

It’s a matter of safety, Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications, said Thursday.

Banning some bags had previously been discussed, but while the NFL, club representatives and security officials were meeting this spring to go over the NFL’s safety policy, the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, McCarthy said.

“They took that into account and decided to improve the policy to adjust to the realities of the world,” McCarthy said.

But the bag ban, announced at the NFL draft, is not popular among some fans.

“I think it’s really crazy,” said Nicole Lincoln, who works at a Kansas City sports bar.

She pointed out that she carries a lot of things in her purse that women wouldn’t want to put on view to the public, or even be able to fit, in a clear plastic bag.

“You can’t carry makeup, female items, brushes, lotion, billfolds,” she said.

She said security already was searching purses and wonders why that wasn’t good enough.

The Chiefs said on Thursday that their goal was to communicate the new policy to the fans, educate them and make it a smooth transition. Tonight, the Chiefs will have people out in force in the parking lots plus lots of signs to spread the word.

On Thursday, the Chiefs were passing out free plastic bags to season-ticket holders in advance of the first home preseason game, against San Francisco. The bags will be on sale at the stadium for as low as $5, said Jayne Martin, director of fan experience.

The NFL said exceptions to its bag-ban must be health-related, such as a breast pump or diabetic supplies. A person wishing to bring in medical equipment will be directed to a special gate where an inspection will take place.

Items prohibited by the new policy include briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage, computer bags and camera bags.

Cameras and cellphones without their cases are permissible and can be carried in your hand, in clear plastic bags or in a clutch purse.

Blankets, jackets and coats also will be permitted, as will 20-ounce factory-sealed water bottles.

At the gate, security wands will still be used to determine whether someone is carrying weapons in his or her clothes.

These changes were made “with an eye toward making the game day safer and also more convenient and a more enjoyable time,” McCarthy said.

Fans will be able to move through the gates much faster with this policy, he said.

McCarthy said the response from fans around the country had been mostly positive.

It didn’t seem that popular in Kansas City on Thursday.

In response to a question posed by The Star on Facebook, several women expressed dismay.

“I think the NFL has alienated women with this one,” one woman said.

Another said she goes to games occasionally and it would be a problem for her.

“I have items in my purse that I might possibly need while at a game, such as cell phone, medications, etc.,” she wrote. “I can’t possibly carry them all in my pockets!”

One woman called it a “dumb idea,” but another said it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

And a man wrote he doesn’t carry a purse, so it isn’t a problem for him, either.

In an interview, John Hickey, a football fan from St. Louis, said the teams would be making money from increased concession sales.

“You can’t bring in coolers, you can’t bring in backpacks, you can’t bring in a sandwich,” he said. “Then they get to sell it to you. It’s crisis capitalism — why let a good crisis go to waste when you can make money?”

Kim O’Neal, a longtime Chiefs fan from Johnson County, said she had several concerns but mainly that the increased use of plastic bags at stadiums in Kansas City and across the country every Sunday for five months would harm the environment.

Already many cities including Los Angeles this summer have banned plastic grocery bags.

“My main concern is people are going to leave the stadium and just throw the plastic bags away,” she said. “It harms the environment, it kills animals. It’s too bad.”

McCarthy said he hoped fans would reuse the bags each week instead of throwing them away.

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