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Marathon deaths prompt review of security policy

Saturday - 4/27/2013, 2:28pm  ET

In this photo taken April 23, 2013, a New York City police officer watches as fans stop to have their bags checked by security before entering Citi Field for a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers in New York. Major League Baseball's previously scheduled security meeting in New York took on added importance in the aftermath of the marathon bombs. Each team sets its own security standards, although clubs might consider cutting the size of the general major league limitation on bags from 16x16x8 inches to something less. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

AP National Writer

Left unattended, no accessory looks as menacing these days as a backpack.

At the airport. On the subway. At a sports event.

And, as a result of the two backpack-encased bombs that exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, sports teams and leagues around the world are rethinking what kind of bags, satchels, purses and, yes, black nylon backpacks should be allowed inside stadiums and arenas.

The packs will even be the focal point of a conference this summer of stadium-security personnel in Orlando .

"After what happened ... I wouldn't be surprised if the number of people eliminating backpacks would increase," said Lou Marciani, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, founded in 2006 and based at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Next Saturday, more than 165,000 people are expected at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. Backpacks, duffel bags and large purses have been banned from the track since 2002 -- part of the clamp-down that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, Derby officials have told fans their bags will undergo increased security checks for this year's race.

No matter where the world ends up on the bag-check spectrum, some fans may never again regard the pack slung across their body quite the same way.

"I never really thought about backpacks until last week, and now you notice backpacks all over the place," said Ryan Hershberger of Hartwell, Ga., as he headed into a Colorado Rockies game carrying a black backpack. "It makes you think."

Down the street, at the Denver Nuggets game, a handful of fans shared the same sentiment.

"I've been thinking about it all day," Joel Cross said on the concourse at the Pepsi Center in Denver. He and his wife traveled from Harrisburg, Neb., to attend Tuesday night's Nuggets playoff game. "We're from a community where our whole county only has 600 people in it. Nobody is going to bomb us because there's no one there. But we're coming to a populated area."

The NFL beefed up security for thousands of fans attending its annual draft, which runs through Saturday, with metal detectors, pat-downs and about 20 percent more personnel in place than previous years. Backpacks are banned. The league said it would consider what, if any, changes might be made for the 2013 season, which ends with the Super Bowl in New York next February.

Major League Baseball's security officials met Thursday but Commissioner Bud Selig said no changes are expected in the rules on bags fans can bring to ballparks, generally limited to 16x16x8 inches. The meeting was scheduled before the Boston explosions that killed three and injured more than 260/

"I wouldn't say that Boston has changed anything," Selig said. "Each club makes its own decision."

At Yankee Stadium, for example, briefcases, coolers and other hard-sided bags or containers are not permitted. At Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, wrapped presents are banned along with cameras with lenses of 12 or more inches. The Baltimore Orioles ban bags with wheels at Camden Yards.

Boston and San Francisco were among the teams opting to use metal-detecting wands on fans and their possessions this week.

"We've added people, and people are getting in faster now, so we're going to stick with the plan," Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said.

Though the marathon bombings caught the attention of the world, not every event or championship, especially overseas, is beefing up or changing security measures.

For instance, officials at Manchester United, the FA Cup final and the European Champions League say their policies, which either ban large bags or strongly discourage them, are under constant review but not set to change.

"We did, of course, contact the police in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, as part of our commitment to the security of fans and visitors to the stadium," Manchester United said in a statement.

At Wimbledon, where tennis action starts in June, no changes are planned.

"It was a terrible event, but we have no reason to believe it's something that has a direct impact on Wimbledon," All-England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said, referring to the Boston explosions.

At the Summer Olympics in London, soft-sided bags were required to fit under seats and couldn't hold more than 25 liters (6 gallons).

Sebastian Coe, who led London's organizing committee, says a ban on backpacks at sports events would not be justified.

"We have to make some pretty tough decisions in the way we want to live our lives," he said. "It's very easy to draw all sorts of conclusions (from the Boston bombings). Do we want to live in a world where people can't wear backpacks to sporting events? I'm not sure we do."

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