NFL wants pat-downs from ankles up at all stadiums

USA TODAY | September 15, 2011
By Michael McCarthy

The NFL wants all fans patted down from the ankles up this season to improve fan safety.

Under the new "enhanced" pat-down procedures, the NFL wants all 32 clubs to search fans from the ankles to the knees as well as the waist up. Previously, security guards only patted down fans from the waist up while looking for booze, weapons or other banned items.

The stricter physical screening policy impacts the 16.6 million fans expected to attend live regular season NFL games this season. The more thorough searches will spell longer lines for ticket-holding fans seeking entry to games. It's sure to raise the ire of some fans who consider it an invasion of privacy.

The NFL recommended the new guidelines before Week 1 of the season, says spokesman Brian McCarthy. The league hopes fans will be "patient" -- and arrive earlier to games to avoid long, punishing lines.

"The enhanced security procedures recommended by our office before the start of the season will further increase the safety of fans but will require some additional time," McCarthy told USA TODAY in a statement Thursday. "We encourage fans to come early, enjoy their tailgating tradition, and be patient as they enter the stadium."

The NFL suffered damage to its family-friendly image when a South Carolina man was arrested for using an illegal stun gun on other fans at a New York Jets-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday night.

The NFL predicts its live gate will be equal this year to last season's overall regular season attendance of 16,569,514.

The Buffalo Bills have announced the changes for fans attending this Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills' announcement reads in part:

The Buffalo Bills will be implementing an enhanced pat-down procedure starting with this Sunday's game and the organization wants to communicate this new process to all fans attending the game. The new procedure is a recommendation from the NFL in accordance with the league's Best Practices policies. Specifically, the enhanced portion of the pat-down is for the area from the knees to the ankles. Bills officials have long recommended that fans arrive early to the gates and continue to do so, especially with the enhanced pat-down now part of the security measures taken at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
UPDATE: The Indianapolis Colts also issued a statement Thursday announcing stricter security screenings for fans entering Lucas Oil Stadium:
At the direction of the NFL, fans attending this Sunday's Colts vs. Browns game, and future NFL games, will be subject to an enhanced personal security screening prior to entering Lucas Oil Stadium. The screening will include physical pat-down (above the waist as well as below the knees) and inspection of all items. The enhanced personal security screening is in addition to the process guests have typically experienced at NFL games since 2001. In order to accommodate this security enhancement, guests are asked to arrive earlier than normal to avoid longer security lines at the checkpoints. Guests may refuse inspections; however, management reserves the right to refuse entry.
The idea of being physically searched by strangers while attending NFL games has been controversial for years. Multiple fans have filed lawsuits across the U.S., challenging the league's physical screenings in court. But the NFL's policies were upheld in court.