Citing safety concerns, the Nationals on Friday announced that backpacks will not be permitted inside Nationals Park this season.
According to the Nationals’ revised bag policy, which goes into effect for the team’s exhibition game against the Yankees on March 25, exceptions may be made for backpack diaper bags and backpacks used for ADA or medical reasons. Purses, briefcases, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers are still permitted, provided that they are no larger than 16 inches long, 16 inches tall and 8 inches wide.
“The safety of our fans, staff and players at Nationals Park is always a top priority,” said Scott Fear, the team’s VP of public safety and security, in a statement. “We are constantly assessing our procedures in an effort to make our ballpark safe. We understand the implementation of these procedures will take some time for our fans to get used to, but our organization is dedicated to making Nationals Park the safest environment possible for everyone in attendance.”
Friday’s announcement was not well received by many fans on social media, some of whom noted that the new policy will make it more difficult for them to attend Nationals games coming straight from work.
In a phone interview, Fear, who joined the Nationals a few months ago after retiring as assistant chief of the U.S. Park Police, said he looked at security measures throughout Major League Baseball and in other professional sports leagues before deciding to revise the team’s bag policy. In 2017, the St. Louis Cardinals became one of the first MLB teams to ban backpacks.
“We tried to eliminate one bag that we feel will make the stadium safer and much more secure, by prohibiting the bag that has the most compartments,” said Fear, who previously served as a Resident Security Agent for the Nationals during his time with the U.S. Park Police. “It’s all about security, the effectiveness of getting the crowd in and making the crowd safe.”
Fear said the Nationals are aware that many fans come to games on public transportation directly from work and bring a bag to carry clothes and laptops, which is one reason the team will continue to allow other types of bags.
“We want all of our fans to feel like they can go to work and come straight to the ballpark,” he said. "Hopefully they’ll find that bag that will enable them to do that.”
For years, the Nationals, who introduced metal detectors as part of the security screening process before the 2015 season, have had one of the more fan-friendly bag policies among teams in the area. Capital One Arena, home of the Capitals and Wizards, prohibits bags that are larger than 14 inches long, 14 inches tall and 6 inches wide, which applies to most backpacks. Only clear bags and small clutch purses are permitted inside D.C. United’s Audi Field. The NFL introduced a clear bag policy last season.
The Nationals’ outside food policy has not changed. Food items and soft-sided coolers that meet the size requirements are still permitted. Metal, plastic and glass containers are prohibited, except for clear, factory-sealed or empty plastic water bottles no larger than one liter, juice boxes, insulin containers and baby food.
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