The NFL’s TSA experience: Some teams will require COVID documentation before stadium entry

·NFL columnist
·3 min read

Calling all bartenders, bouncers and velvet rope jockeys: Some NFL teams might have an opening for you. Especially if you can spot a good fake ID — or in this case, a forged vaccination card.

On Tuesday, the Seattle Seahawks became the third NFL team to require proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test inside the 72 hours prior to kickoff in order to enter a stadium on gameday. Interestingly, Seattle is the league’s first open-air stadium to implement the protocols, following the domed venues of the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints. 

That trio of franchises is now in an NFL fraternity that could considerably expand over the course of the season, as teams continue to kick tires on avenues to mitigate the potential spread of the Delta variant of the virus among fans.

And how will they pull this off? Well, it’s going to be a little like going to the airport.

If you’re going low-tech, you’ll be bringing your documentation to the gate for on-site verification — literally. If you’re going high-tech, you’re going to be uploading proof in an online portal. And both avenues will be monitored for forgeries. 

From the Seahawks:

To verify COVID-19 vaccination, guests age 12 and older will be required to display one of the following before entry into the stadium:

* An official CDC-issued (or foreign country equivalent) vaccination card with your name and dates of doses, including the date the last dose was administered printed on the card.

* A photo or digital version of an official CDC-issued (or foreign country equivalent) vaccination card with your name and dates of doses, including the date the last dose was administered printed on the card.

* Fans can also upload their proof of vaccination to CLEAR Health Pass in the CLEAR app for verification.

What’s to keep fans from using fakes to gain entry? Well, nobody knows yet, because this is a new process for teams. There is no national database that keeps track of who is vaccinated and who isn’t, and the swath of COVID testing sites is so varied that it’s going to make it difficult to know for certain which test results are real and which are forged, particularly if the ruse is elaborate.

One NFL source familiar with the protocols that are being established by teams — which has included some legal dialogue with the league office — said the onus is largely going to be on the security employees at the stadium gates. 

Essentially, the people checking the documentation are going to be trained to know what they are looking at. And if something isn’t lining up, fans are going to be turned away. But unlike tickets that come with scannable bar codes that drastically reduce fraud in the system, the vaccination and testing documentation is going to be a matter of passing the eyeball test.

That’s likely to slow down the entry process on gameday, although nobody is certain what it will look like given that this is all new territory. The league prefers fans embrace the CLEAR Health Pass to expedite the process. But like the airport experience, fans arriving with physical documentation are going to be encouraged to get to the gates early so that they have enough time to go through the extra layer of COVID protocols.

And it would be wise to avoid pulling a “Maderna” fake like a now-infamous vacationer recently allegedly attempted when traveling to Hawaii. Not only will the CLEAR app likely catch it, but fans could face some legal ramifications for the forgery as well.

So welcome to the 2021 NFL season. Be prepared for it to be as weird as last year.

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