The NFL is requiring journalists covering Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis to provide racial identification when requesting credentials to be admitted to the Feb. 4 game.

Journalists for years have been asked to provide either a Social Security number or passport number and a photo for security checks for the game but have not been asked to specify their race, a field that is mandatory in the online press pass application form.


An image of the NFL’s online Super Bowl credential application form. (Kelyn Soong/The Washington Post)

The NFL until this year conducted security checks on media members on its own, while the FBI performed checks on other credentialed personnel, such as vendors or stadium attendants, league spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Washington Post.

For this year’s game, the league asked the FBI to perform security checks on all credentialed personnel, including members of the media, McCarthy said. The NFL’s security department, which controls the composition of the application form, attempted to make the press credentialing process “consistent with checks that are done for others who receive a working credential,” which includes requesting racial information.

The FBI has said that while providing racial information is helpful to conducting security checks, it has not been, and was not intended to be, a required field on the application form.

“Consistent with the support we have provided in the past for special events such as the Super Bowl, the FBI will conduct name checks as requested using personally identifiable information,” an FBI spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We seek to do this in a manner which is efficient and effective, yet minimally intrusive. Identification of race is not required to complete these checks, and we are working to reduce any confusion about this issue.”

Applicants may select “American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, Unknown, or White, including Hispanic” in the race field.

Racial identification is crucial for “sight identification” for law enforcement personnel, said James J. Wedick, a retired FBI agent of three decades and security consultant. Large event venues increasingly are asking for racial identification in recent years, but most of the time, providing that information is optional.

“It’s a question that everybody today dances around, but it’s not because it’s something that folks are not used to giving,” Wedick said. “Maybe in this particular situation it’s something you didn’t have to give before, but we’ve become more security conscious and these venues are being more careful about making sure you are who you claim to be.”

The FBI routinely stores information for 20 years, he said, in case that data can be helpful in future investigations or in security checks.

The NFL and FBI did not respond to questions about how that data would be stored.

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