Get ready to ask your male buddies to hold your stuff from now on, ladies. If you’re heading to a football game this season, you’ll have to leave your purse at home.
The NFL recently announced new rules banning all bags, purses, or backpacks over 4.5” x 6.5” in every professional football stadium. The NFL will allow you to bring your belongings in your pockets, in a clutch roughly the size of your hand, or in a clear plastic bag. While the goal is to make entering stadiums safer and easier, the new rules could leave individual fans at risk if they’re not careful. Read on for need-to-know info and tips for staying safe.
What You CAN Bring
Unless you’re wearing cargo pants, you’ll probably need something to carry at least your keys, phone, ID, and cash or credit cards. According to the new rules, you can either keep them in a very small clutch no bigger than 4.5” x 6.5” (to help you measure, an iPhone 5 is 4.9 inches long) or in a clear plastic bag (either a clear NFL logo tote or your own 1-gallon freezer bag). According to the NFL’s website, an exception will be made for medically necessary items, which are subject to proper inspection at security.
What You CAN’T Bring
Forget backpacks, purses, diaper bags, fanny packs, briefcases, camera bags (you can put the camera around your neck or in your clear plastic bag), laptop or tablet cases, and most seat cushions. If you’re carrying any of these or other now-prohibited items, the NFL says you will be turned away from the stadium—or you can toss them (though some stadiums are implementing a bag check area just in case).
How To Stay Safe on Game Day
While it’s great that the NFL is heeding safety concerns for stadiums, some of the new rules are a little worrisome for fans. For instance, carrying around your cash, credit cards, and cell phones in a clear plastic bag can make you an easy target for theft—especially if you’re traveling to and from a stadium on public transportation. Worried about how the new rules will affect you on Sundays? Use these 7 tips to stay safe:
1. Ditch the clear bags
Not only are these displaying your goods for all to see, but they’re pretty difficult to hold onto if someone tries to snatch them. It’s smarter to limit your belongings to only what you can fit in a small clutch, says Tracy Vega, who cofounded Simple Self Defense for Women along with her husband Charley Vega.
2. Pick the right clutch
Take a ruler out before you bring your favorite wristlet because chances are it won’t make the cut. It needs to be no longer than an iPhone 4S on one side and just two inches longer than that on the other side (so, roughly the size of your hand). Seriously, you’ll want to triple check those bag measurements. And avoid bringing a wallet or clutch without a strap, as these are more easily lost or stolen, says Vega. “If it has no handle or you’re not used to carrying it, I’d advise against it.”
3. Avoid bag check
Even if your stadium offers a bag check, you’ll be risking long lines and the possibility that your bag gets lost or stolen. “You want to stay with your bag at all times,” says Vega.
4. Stuff your pockets
Here’s a loophole: the NFL says you can jam pack your pockets with belongings that don’t fit into the clutch or plastic bag, so get creative. However, Vega stresses that pockets should be zippered or buttoned so nothing is peeking out. And as temperatures drop throughout the season, look for coats with ample interior compartments.
5. Don’t toss your purse back in the car
If you’re driving to the game, don’t assume it’s safe to carry your purse around the tailgate, then stuff it in your car before kickoff. The problem is, everyone around you knows exactly where you put your belongings and where you’ll be for the next three to four hours. Instead, take what you need out of your purse and put it in the trunk or covered in the back seat before you ever get out of the car, says Vega.
6. Stay alert on public transportation
If you’re taking public transportation, be extra careful with your belongings when they’re in a clear bag or a tiny clutch. Try to make sure they’re not visible, get on and off at lit areas, and trust your instincts—especially if someone around you is making you uncomfortable. “It’s OK to not always be nice,” says Vega. “It’s better to be safe.” It’s also smart to plan your route ahead of time and not sit near the exits since that’s the easiest place for someone to snatch your things and run, says Charley Vega.
7. Be smart in the parking lot
You may feel safe in a crowd, but it’s crucial to always take steps to avoid a potential threat. If someone is approaching you in a way that seems suspicious, try to stay 7-10 feet away from them, says Charley Vega. If they continue approaching and you feel uncomfortable, put your hand up at their eye level. “It tells that person that this woman is not an easy target,” says Vega. “And if anybody is around, that is universal body language that tells them there is a potential problem.”