Pro Football Stadium Security Requires All Fans to Patted Down

To further increase security, fans will be patted down before entering stadiums for all pro football games this season -- beginning with the Cowboys' preseason game Saturday at Texas Stadium.

While many Cowboys fans may be unfamiliar with pat-downs before games, the procedures have been used before at National Football League stadiums, including at Super Bowls since 2002 and at last year's playoff games.

Cowboys fans are asked to bring patience with them to the next two preseason games -- and to the regular-season games as well.

"This new requirement is not a result of any specific threat information," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. "It is in recognition of the significant additional security that 'pat-downs' offer, as well as the favorable experience that our clubs and fans have had using 'pat-downs' as part of a comprehensive stadium security plan."

The NFL sent pat-down guidelines to teams after a recent league meeting. It is up to each club and stadium to implement them, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Cowboys and Texas Stadium officials declined to discuss most of the details of the pat-down procedure.

"Certain elements of any security procedure are things we don't share publicly," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said.

Fans will be separated by sex at entry gates and will be screened by hired security officers of the same sex. Everyone entering the stadium will be screened.

The policy is leaguewide for the regular season, but the Cowboys are getting an early start.

"Our organization decided that since we're going to do it for the regular season, we'd also do it for the preseason games at Texas Stadium," Dalrymple said.

Irving police and stadium staff will also be posted at the gates, said Bruce Hardy, general manager of Texas Stadium.

As has become normal procedure at Cowboys games, fans will be screened with hand magnetometers, Hardy said.

"Our fans have been going great through security since we started after 9-11," he said. "We have fantastic fans, and they understand."

The increased security procedures come as the federal Homeland Security Department has determined that the nation's largest sporting events no longer qualify as high-level "national special security events."

Examples of such events were President Bush's inauguration and President Reagan's funeral.

"Even the Super Bowl in the last two years was not an NSSE," Homeland Security spokeswoman Valerie Smith said.

The last Super Bowl was a "level one" event, which garners a ton of federal surveillance, including from the Secret Service.

And, according to Federal Aviation Administration officials, flight restrictions above and around large sporting events still apply.

Security pat-downs became controversial last year when the Transportation Security Administration started torso pat-downs of passengers at airports after a 9-11 Commission recommendation and the bombing of two Russian passenger jets. The terrorists were believed to be two Chechen women who concealed explosives on their bodies.

Air travelers were subject to searches for explosives hidden around their genitals, buttocks and breasts.

The pat-downs resulted in a barrage of complaints and criticism, mostly from women who said they were being fondled.

Airport pat-downs have been modified several times since, and the complaints have decreased, TSA officials said.

NFL officials say they are not worried that the expanded use of pat-downs will make fans feel uncomfortable.

Where they have been previously used, pat-downs have been generally accepted.

(c)Associated Press