Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFL adds lower legs to security pat-downs
TAMPA - The National Football League has asked its 32 teams to increase the physical screening spectators are required to undergo before they enter the stadium. Before the season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions, the Tampa Sports Authority said fans should expect expanded pat-downs. "The knee-to-ankle area will be added to the current pat-down procedure which entails an unobtrusive head-to-waist inspection for persons of all ages," the sports authority said in a news release issued Saturday. "Pat-downs will be done expeditiously by highly trained individuals of the same gender, done with the back of the hand; women will search women and men will search men."All fans are subject to the enhanced pat-downs, and those that refused won't be admitted. However, not all fans were searched that way Sunday in Tampa. The stepped-up security measure was introduced on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The NFL pat-down policy was introduced in 2005 and required that fans be searched only from the waist up. The pat-downs did not begin in Tampa until 2008 because of a lawsuit filed by a local high school government teacher who claimed the searches were unconstitutional. An injunction was ordered by a federal court that delayed implementing the policy, but an appeals court later lifted the injunction. The enhanced pat-downs are expected to increase the time fans spend in line at the stadium gates. Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, acknowledged the enhanced policy would require some getting used to. But he said the change would "further increase the safety of fans." "We encourage fans to come early," McCarthy told Reuters, "enjoy their tailgating tradition and be patient as they enter the stadium. The change was made before a fan at New Jersey's Met Life Stadium was charged with assault after authorities said he used a stun gun during a fight with other fans Sunday at the Jets-Cowboys game. The stun gun was brought into the stadium despite pat-downs and bag checks for all fans, a stadium executive said. In August, two men were injured in shootings in the parking lot and another man reportedly was assaulted and knocked unconscious in a restroom during a preseason game between the 49ers and Raiders in Oakland, Calif.