Column: Line Drives — Lapse in security needs answers

[This is my column in the Nov. 5 issue of The Commercial Review.]

How does it happen?

Given the surge in security measures taken at sporting events since Sept. 11, 2001, how is it that fans are able to smuggle things into professional sports stadiums?

Take Monday night’s football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those of us who watched the game on TV were treated to footage of two people who rappelled and displayed a sign from the upper deck of the stadium protesting Bank of America’s involvement in a liquefied natural gas plant.

Initially it was unclear what they were doing. Gregg Doyel, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, tweeted a photo claiming that they were technicians fixing a TV camera.

Makes sense.

But once they displayed the banner, it was clear they were not repairing anything.

Those two, along with another pair who assisted them, were arrested for second degree trespassing and resisting an officer.

But again it begs the question as to how rappelling equipment of all things made it through gate security.

“We are conducting an inquiry as to how the rappelling equipment got in,” said Lance Emory, director of security for the Carolina Panthers. “We don’t know at this time but we are trying to determine that.”

Anyone who has ever been to a sporting event knows the security checkpoints at the gate are strict.

Most stadiums have even instituted a clear-bag policy so security officials can easily see what fans are attempting to bring in.

Most of those venues employ workers who use wands to check fans for metal objects, or they have each fan empty their pockets and walk through metal detectors.

Emory also said it is unclear as to whether or not the protestors’ tools were brought in days before the game or on Monday night.

Still, concealing rappelling equipment — complete with metal hooks — through metal detectors can’t be easy.

It’s not the first time that prohibited items are brought into sports stadiums, and I’d bet the farm that it won’t be the last either.

A long-standing tradition at Detroit Red Wings playoff games is to throw an octopus on the ice. The meaning is that it used to take eight games — one representing each tentacle on the octopus — to win the Stanley Cup.

While that number has changed to 16, the tradition at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit lives on.

It has even spawned into “Al the Octopus” becoming Detroit’s mascot.

However, years ago the arena banned fans from bringing in the marine animal, but it still happens.

How?

If security is supposed to be beefed up to ensure the safety of the players and fans, these occurrences shouldn’t be happening.

In 2005, months after the famous “Malice at the Palace” between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, it was nearly impossible to smuggle loose change into The Palace at Auburn Hills.

I tried.

I attended a pair of games between the Pacers and Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinal and it took seemingly 20 minutes just to get through the security checkpoints. NBA and Palace officials weren’t going to allow another such event to occur.

I haven’t been to a game at the Palace since, but I’m almost positive that security hasn’t become more lenient.

Heck, I even attended the Detroit Lions game against the Chicago Bears at Fort Field on Oct. 18, and security was still strict.

Another bizarre lapse in security was following Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. During the post game press conference of MVP Malcolm Smith, a “truther” ran to the stage and interrupted Smith, reached for the microphone and said, “Investigate 9/11. 9/11 was perpetrated by people within our own government.”

The intruder was Brooklyn native Matthew Mills, who later told NJ.com how he was able to get that deep into the stadium.

“I just said I was running late for work and I had to get in there,” he said. “It was that simple. I didn’t think I’d get that far. I just kept getting closer and closer. Once I got past the final gate and into the stadium I was dumbfounded.”

Dumfounded is right.

One would think given the lengths these leagues and stadiums go through to increase security, these occurrences would be less frequent.

Unfortunately, they’re not, and it leaves me wondering every time.

How does it happen?

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