BLOG: Media security at sporting events is dangerously inadequate

Posted at 12:53 PM, Feb 18, 2017

It's happened more times than I can count, at every major stadium and arena in the Valley.

I bring a computer bag with me to every sporting event I cover. It's a fairly standard bag, with two main compartments large enough to hold a laptop, and a smaller compartment in the front. 

I've attended dozens of events during my two years at ABC15, and only about half the time has each compartment been investigated by a security agent at the media check-in table. The compartment most often left unchecked is the smaller one, where I keep most of my materials -- a laptop charger, phone charger, ear buds, binoculars (for football games) and, on occasion, an iPad and iPad stand.

In other words, a compartment large enough to carry any number of devices capable of causing a considerable amount of destruction at a sporting event attended by thousands of people.

Of course I know I'm not carrying anything dangerous, and sometimes I feel guilty for not reminding the security agent to check my entire bag. But it's also not my job to do so.

While many stadiums and arenas have wisely installed a clear bag policy for fans, that rule does not apply to media members. This is understandable, especially on the TV side, as it wouldn't be feasible with the large amount of equipment many need to bring into the stadium.

America is as politically heated as ever, and it's easier than ever for anyone to obtain a media pass

But this only accentuates the necessity for a thorough media security checkpoint outside every sporting event. At present, that kind of checkpoint doesn't exist on a consistent basis at any stadium or arena in the Valley.

My experience at the 2017 WM Phoenix Open, which was attended by over 650,000 people, was the reason I decided to write this column. I was there in a media capacity for parts of four days. On the first day, I went through the usual woeful security check -- a lightning-quick "search" of the larger compartments of my bag, while the smaller compartment went unchecked.

Later that day, I learned media members could place an orange tag on their bags that would allow them to skip the security checkpoint for the remainder of the tournament. In other words, I could have loaded up my bag with anything on any of the tourney's final three days, and entered the golf course without anyone checking my belongings. 

The role of the media in sports has changed drastically in the last decade. In addition to members from the local TV stations and newspapers who routinely cover events, a number of bloggers, podcast hosts and other digital media members are also granted access.

This is a positive development, to be sure. But America is as politically heated as ever, and it's easier than ever for anyone to obtain a media pass.

All it takes is one disgruntled journalist -- or a resourceful, angry person masquerading as a journalist -- to make us open our eyes to just how inadequate our media security truly is. Let's not allow it to get to that point.

The only recent event I've covered at which I truly felt safe was last season's Fiesta Bowl, at which bomb-sniffing dogs were on hand to investigate the contents of everyone's bag.

Yes, the Fiesta Bowl is a high-profile event. But nearly as many fans (50,000-plus) attend each Cardinals game at that very same stadium 10 times a year. Are their lives somehow less worthy of sufficient protection?

Rarely do I hear media members speak up about the lack of security. Maybe it's because I'm the only one who's experienced these things. But it's more likely because we all enjoy bypassing the inconvenience of a thorough security check.

Well, it's time we all demand to be inconvenienced a little bit more. The safety of fans, athletes and ourselves is at stake.