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How Effective Are the Clear Bag Policies?

By: Bailey Massey

Edited By: Kylie Augis

Ever since the NFL implemented its clear bag policy back in 2013, many other stadiums and organizations have followed suit. The clear bag policies extend far past major sporting events, though. Many schools and venues have also adapted these policies, seeking to ensure better safety for its occupants. While seemingly well-intended, how effective are these policies? Have they really reduced violence and crime by that much? Let’s take a deeper look at this issue and determine once and for all.

The NFL’s Clear Bag Policy–The Blueprint

Via the NFL’s official website, “The NFL strongly encourages fans not to bring any bags, but fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium: Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12" x 6" x 12" or 30.5 x 15.25 x 30.5 cm. This includes clear backpacks, clear fanny packs and clear cinch bags that fit within the permissible dimensions.” This rule was implemented back in the year 2013, and many other venues use this as a blueprint for their own bag policies.

The NHL’s Clear Bag Policy

Much like many other aspects of the league, the NHL marches to the beat of their own drum when it comes to the clear bag policy. Unlike the NFL, the NHL has left it up to each individual team to make major decisions regarding what is allowed or isn’t allowed into arenas. The biggest change in terms of security and safety in recent years has been the types and size of bags that are allowed into an arena. While some teams only listed “over-sized bags” as prohibited, most teams have a bag size of 14”x14”x6” as the limit. Backpacks are prohibited across the league, which is one of the only uniform decisions related to this issue. According to my research, bag policies began getting introduced to the league as well as individual teams around 2018/2019.

Image Courtesy of The NFL

The MLB’s Clear Bag Policy

According to T-Bones Baseball, “Backpacks are not allowed in any MLB stadium. This includes small backpacks, large backpacks, and any other type of backpack. All bags must be able to fit under your seat or in your lap. If you must bring a bag with you, it must be clear and no larger than 16”x16”x8”. The only exception to the backpack policy is for fans with medical needs. If you have a medical condition that requires you to carry a bag, you must obtain a credential from the MLB before entering the stadium.” This is the perfect example of how another league adapted the NFL’s rule. According to my research, the MLB began adapting this policy quite recently in the year 2020. Courtesy of the PNC Arena

Courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks

The NBA’s Clear Bag Policy

As of 2022, the NBA does not have a clear bag policy. However, there has been a policy implemented to all NBA teams. The NBA bag policy prohibits all backpacks and hard-sided bags, along with any other bags (including briefcases, luggage, purses and diaper bags) that are larger than 14x14x6 in size. Single compartment drawstring bags and fashion backpack purses will be permitted, however. This is just another example of how a major organization took the NFL’s policy and adapted it to meet their own needs. According to my research, the league began following this policy in 2017/2018.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Schools’ Stance

In the past two decades, America has been faced with countless school shootings. Columbine, Colorado, and Parkland, Florida, to Oxford, Michigan, and Uvalde, Texas are just a few examples. As a result, some districts across the nation have ordered students to use clear backpacks as a way to keep children safe. However, many students have voiced their dislike for these policies as they completely remove both individuality and privacy. In fact, many students rebelled. This caused many districts to dismiss the policy altogether, claiming it was ineffective. Other preventive measures that school districts have taken include increasing police presence, installing metal detectors, and/or doing routine bag searches prior to entrance to the school. Some critics have stated that they believe within the next decade, backpacks might just not exist at all. Students may just travel with a laptop and nothing else. As far as that solution goes, only time will tell. You know as well as I do that school shootings and gun violence are both still a major issue today. These policies may have prevented a few major tragedies from occurring, but certainly not all of them. Perhaps these policies aren’t the solution at all.

Courtesy of

What Do They All Have in Common?

Obviously, all of these policies have been implemented to keep people safe. Despite the little differences in bag size and materials, these policies are all overall the same. In the case of stadiums, the bag policies weren’t just implemented to improve safety but to also decrease time taken for security searches prior to game entrance. These policies serve as a time efficiency tool as well as a safety measure. In the instance of schools, these policies were to completely get rid of student privacy with the hopes that nothing would be able to sneak past the watchful eyes of school administrators. I also would argue that these policies are simply a knee-jerk reaction to the issue of violence and crime within sporting events and schools. In both cases, I think that lawmakers have been scratching their heads when it comes to an effective solution. This is the best idea they could come up with given the amount of time and effort they were willing to put into it. Also, in both cases, I feel that lawmakers are incorrectly citing the problem. They are approaching it with good intentions, but in an entirely incorrect way. In both instances, at least lawmakers are addressing something. Something is notably better than nothing. But, it would be far more productive and successful if the correct something was being targeted.

A Lighthearted Solution to a Massive Problem

Many critics of the clear bag policy argue that the clear bag policies are disguised as a “magic fix”. I tend to agree with this accusation, one that is entirely naive and untrue. Much like any other major crisis our nation is facing, there is no singular magic solution to erase the problem. Where there is a will, there is always a way. No matter what kind of bag is or isn’t allowed, someone with ill intentions will find a way around any policy.If someone wants to bring a weapon to cause harm either in a stadium or school, they will absolutely figure out a way to do so. But if clear bags aren’t the solution, then what is?

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Honestly, I don’t think that there is one specific solution that would completely erase violence and crime from stadiums and schools. In fact, I think the solution includes many different aspects. America, for quite some time now, has been incorrectly labeling guns and weapons as the root of all violence and crime we are facing. We have been claiming “guns kill people”, and seeking out ways to remove them from society. We are failing to call the issue for what it is, which is a growing mental health crisis. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It's both puzzling and concerning that we as a nation cannot admit this. In my opinion, I believe this is due to the fact that it is seemingly much easier to tackle the issue from the angle that guns are causing it rather than mental health. We understand weapons far more than we do our own minds, as sad as that is to admit. We’d rather completely get rid of guns and other weapons than perhaps acknowledge that many people (especially young adults) are mentally unwell. Until we do this, the issue of violence and crime in both schools and stadiums will always exist. We continue to fight against the wrong cause, while the real one continues to grow and remain uncorrected. The issue will only get worse before it is ever going to get better.

Final Thoughts

I want to make it clear that I am not at all against the clear bag policies. I am not advocating for the removal of these policies. As I just stated, there is no one single solution for this major crisis. Clear bags should be one step in a larger plan that includes measures like tighter gun laws, broader access to mental health resources, and better police training. I also believe that the process used to obtain a gun or other weapons should include a much further background check. Perhaps a test to conclude whether or not an individual is mentally stable enough to own such items. While the clear bags may not be as effective as many would hope, they certainly are a small step in the right direction. I applaud major sports organizations and schools both for addressing this issue and doing what they feel is right to tackle this problem. Although their efforts may not be as strong or thorough as they could potentially be, some effort is better than none at all. Instead of ridiculing these organizations for not doing enough, I feel we should both challenge and encourage them to take a deeper look at the problem. To acknowledge the real issue. And, above all, to take a firmer stance and implement different actions and policies. Until we as a nation are willing to do this, we should expect to continue to see these tragedies unfold for many years to come.

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