Ball Arena’s no-bags policy is about greed, not safety

Rule discriminates against women, people with disabilities and people with children

The Ball Arena in Denver. (Google Maps)

As COVID restrictions begin to lift and people are once again allowed to attend sports and other events, venues like Denver’s Ball Arena (home to the Nuggets and the Avalanche) and the Staples Center (home to the Lakers and other teams) are announcing new policies prohibiting purses or bags of any kind.

A bag prohibition policy is about laziness and greed, not safety. It has nothing to do with COVID or security — the CDC just issued new guidelines that says that the risk of surface transmission is extremely low.

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It has everything to do with forcing patrons to spend money at the event venue and venues not wanting to spend money on security staff (like, say, airports). It says women, people with disabilities, and people with children are not welcome. It is discriminatory.

As Denver-based sports journalist Lindsay Jones put it, “Just say you don’t want women and children to come back to games.” Another sportswriter, Lindsey Adler, commented, “It’s sick to see all these sports venues use covid as an excuse to implement these hyper-restrictive bag policies.”

A no-bags policy at public venues like Ball Arena or the Staples Center is in fact both sexist and ableist. It automatically presumes everyone is a healthy man in men’s clothing with minimal physical needs and without kids. This is not true of women, people with disabilities, or people who have periods.

Both Ball Arena and the Staples Center say patrons can only bring items that fit in their pockets. This policy could only have been written and approved by a man. Women’s clothing either doesn’t have pockets or the pockets are pretty much non-functional. Bluntly, where do people who have periods put menstrual products, like pads and tampons? Do we string them around our neck?

What about epipens? Seizure medication? As one of my friends posted on Twitter, along with a photo, “Hey @STAPLESCenter @BallArenaDenver these are the supplies someone who catheterizes needs to empty their bladder (aka pee). Without a bag, should I arrive just clutching them in my hands?”

Another person replied to Staples, “What about people with disabilities who need to carry supplies? Are they going to be stopped and have to go through the embarrassing process of explaining their medical condition to and in front of complete strangers?”

Both venues require disabled people to disclose their disability to staff. Ball Arena allows a small diaper or medical bag, but requires a special screening. The Staples Center offers up a vague, “Guests requiring bags for medical/parental needs should contact the Guest Services department for further information.”

So Staples expects people with disabilities to explain their confidential medical condition and needed equipment to complete strangers? Really?

The Staples Center has rightly been hammered on social media, and you can read a sampling here. The Ball Arena policy has attracted less attention so far — but I expect that may change. I reached out to Ball Arena on Twitter asking them to explain their policy. They have yet to respond.

And one final thought: I’m no lawyer, but policies that inherently discriminate against a class — women and people with disabilities — would seem to be hugely problematic.

As our nation returns to normal post-pandemic, we should all be doing the things that make that transition as easy as possible. Telling sports fans that unless you’re a healthy man in pants with pockets you’re not welcome does exactly the opposite.

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