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After 9/11 Attacks 20 Years Ago, Kansas City Sports Fans Adjust To Clear Bags And Security Checks

The backpack of a fan entering Kauffman Stadium is checked by a member of the security team.
Greg Echlin
KCUR 89.3
The backpack of a fan entering Kauffman Stadium is checked by a member of the security team.

The safety protocols implemented at sporting events after 9/11 have become a routine part of fans' experience, accepted as one of the ways life changed after the attack.

The security checks at Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums are among the most enduring signs of how much security has changed since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 20 years ago. And steps toward insuring a safe environment at sporting events are constantly evolving.

As the Kansas City Chiefs are set to kick off their season Sunday afternoon, Sept. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium against the Cleveland Browns, and the Royals wind down their 2021 home schedule, both franchises are in the process of seeking a safety certification from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“We’re very far along (in the process), and the pandemic has slowed things down a little bit from a certificate point-of-view, but not from a functioning point-of-view,” said Royals Chief Operating Officer Brooks Sherman (no relation to Royals majority owner John Sherman).

With a DHS certification, it would give the owners of the teams protection, for a certain DHS-determined time frame, from paying claims to victims if Homeland Security ascertains that an act of terrorism has taken place at either venue.

While upgrading their security measures to meet protocols set by the National Football League and Major League Baseball, and at the same time moving Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums closer to DHS certification, Sherman said the Royals and the Chiefs are in constant communication.

“We speak with them a lot from a stadium operations perspective since we share the property, so we learn from one another and insure that we are both up to speed with each other,” said Brooks.

The first game after 9/11

The Chiefs’ first game after the 9/11 attacks was on Sept. 23, 2001. As fate would have it, they played the New York Giants at Arrowhead.

During an emotional pregame ceremony, Kansas City rhythm and blues singer Hal Wakes, who still performs locally, sang the national anthem. As the son of a pastor and himself a man of faith, Wakes said he prays when he sings.

Hal Wake performs Friday, Sept. 3 at Knucklehead's.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Hal Wake performs Friday, Sept. 3 at Knucklehead's.

On that day, Wakes said he tried to help in the healing process.

“We always want to do good and whatever we can do to assist someone in life, yes, that’s what we do,” said Wakes reflecting on that game two decades ago.

The Giants won the game, 13-3. It may have been the only day Chiefs fans felt empathy toward an opponent. But that will be highly unlikely when the Browns come to town this Sunday.

For Sunday’s game, fans are discouraged from bringing bags into the stadium. But if carried in, the NFL has a clear bag policy in which it’s necessary for the items to be seen through plastic or vinyl. It's a policy designed to help keep fans safe.

In 2001, Carl Peterson was the Chiefs president and general manager. Along with his announcement on the increased security at Arrowhead, Peterson delivered another message that resonates today: “We are not going to let the terrible events intimidate America. Or fans in Kansas City.”

And while the war on terror is not over, attention to safety where sporting fans assemble has proven to be worth the investment of time and resources.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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