The NFL’s Policing of Players’ Tattoos and Spectators’ Purses

Aaron_HernandezThe NFL may employ “police experts” to investigate players’ tattoos. As reported, after the arrest of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez on murder charges, some linked him to gang activity and pointed to his tattoos as evidence, particularly a tattoo of the word “Blood” as a connection to the Bloods gang. As noted, next to “blood” is tattooed the word “sweat,” as in “blood, sweat, and tears,” so perhaps the tattoo-gang connection remains ambiguous. For a gallery of some tattoos and their supposed meanings, look here and here

While it is reported that “it is not illegal to discriminate against someone for tattoos and piercings,” the idea that the NFL would subject its players to some sort of tattoo review is troubling. Tattoos are apparently fairly common among players and potentially quite extensive.  While tattoos are a protected form of expression, private employers are usually free to implement rules governing their visibility on the job. Because the NFL is arguably “private,” this does not raise constitutional issues, but using police “experts” involves the government and there may be collateral consequences.


NFLbagIn other NFL news, the League is also concerned  with its fans’ bags.  New size restrictions for handbags are in effect, but HuffPost writer Kimann Schultz says they are so small as to be impracticable or even unavailable. Season ticket holders received a clear plastic bag for their use, expanding an already intrusive bag search to make the contents visible to all, all the time. Schultz concludes: “I encourage the NFL to consider the reality of both retail availability for women when calculating these dimensions and practical application of the few items we have a right to carry with discretion….”  Again, because it is a private forum – – – although stadiums are often heavily financed by governments – – – constitutional questions will remain in the background.  But perhaps there could be a sex discrimination claim?

[images via 1 and 2]