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Just in time for the 2013 NFL preseason, a new policy for bags brought into stadiums is now in effect.
The new league-wide policy, revealed last month, limits the size (and type) of bags that fans are allowed to bring into stadiums. The rule kicks in tonight, as the first preseason games get underway.
The reasoning behind this new rule, according to the NFL Committee on Stadium Security, is to increase public safety and to make for a quicker, more efficient entry into the stadium on game days.
To be clear, here's what the new policy allows:
Clear (See-Through) Bags Only
Patrons will still be allowed to bring bags into stadiums -- but just small ones. An NFL press release states that only small clear plastic, PVC, or vinyl bags that don't exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches will be allowed.
Additionally, gallon-sized plastic freezer bags are allowed, as well as smaller clutch bags (not to exceed roughly the size of one's hand).
With the exception of necessary items for medical purposes (after proper inspection), everything else that doesn't fall within these limits will be prohibited.
That means fans who aren't aware of these new rules will be forced to return to their cars to put their oversized and non-see-through bags away before lining up again to enter the stadium.
Bag Searches and Public Accomodations
Some of those turned away at the gate are bound to be upset by the new "clear bag" policy. But keep in mind that as private entities, the NFL and its football franchises are generally allowed to impose conditions on entry.
However, as stadiums are considered public accommodations under the law, they are not allowed to target or discriminate against protected groups. So an across-the-board policy about clear bags is OK -- unless it's somehow enforced in a discriminatory manner.
Also keep in mind that the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures only applies to the government. Again, because NFL stadiums are owned by private entities, they are generally free to conduct searches as they see fit, within the confines of the law.