Aside from an unusually large number of grown men and women wearing giant blocks of cheese on their heads, the crowd flowing into Bank of America Stadium for Sunday afternoon’s Carolina Panthers game looked pretty much like it always does.
Six days earlier, four environmental activists somehow smuggled sophisticated climbing gear into the venue during the Panthers’ game against Indianapolis, then two of them rappelled off the upper deck.
But while the team’s efforts to figure out how the activists smuggled in the gear have been intense, the team didn’t tighten security protocols after the incident; it merely reinforced them.
In fact, Panthers officials had said in the days before Sunday’s game against Green Bay that no special security or screening changes were planned, and, indeed, fans coming through the gates said they noticed no special security or screening changes.
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“We tried to get in a little bit early, just because we figured they’d be more thorough this week,” said Tate Ogburn of Charlotte, who made it inside with his daughter Virginia about 25 minutes before kickoff.
And? Were they more thorough than usual this week? “No,” he said. “Same as always: Take everything out, put it in your hat, hold it up and get wanded.”
Cace Siddons of Charlotte, who cleared the ticket gate about five minutes later, said she was patted down by security – but only because she has a heart monitor implant and doctors don’t recommend placing a metal-detecting wand directly over it. Otherwise, her husband, Mike, said, “We sailed right through.”
Still, the usual stuff didn’t sail through, stuff like the Packers umbrella that a Green Bay fan had to return to his car; the football a teenager tossed into the trash after only briefly looking conflicted; and lots of open bottles of water.
And fans who didn’t queue up in line outside until 12:45 p.m. (kickoff was at 1) found themselves in nasty gridlock.
But most people who’ve been to a Panthers game know: If you wait until the last minute to try to get inside Bank of America Stadium, you’ll have plenty of people to keep you company.