Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Opinion: On presidential visits to ballgames and long security lines

I was there in the security line Monday night outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- a.k.a., the site of the Atlanta/Georgia Sports Curse Vol. LXVII -- when the frustration began to mount, for me and everyone around me. I spent a solid hour in the cold and light rain being pushed and pressed toward the metal detectors and Secret Service screeners, and I heard about many others whose ordeals were even longer. I can attest anecdotally that a common theme emerged: This is President Trump's fault for coming to the game.

Now, let's stipulate two things from the start. First, this frustration would be applicable to any president. Heightened security comes with any president's visit to such an event, and there would be backlash from some people regardless of which party was in power; even in the South, football fandom is a bipartisan affair. Second, it's entirely possible the bulk of the security measures would have been in place anyway. I've encountered metal detectors on my way into SunTrust Park before a meaningless Braves game in September. This is 21st-century America, and it's perhaps only a perception that the screening would have been significantly lighter absent a presidential visit.

But it's those last two points -- that this is the way things are now, and yet the perception was overwhelmingly that it was worse because of POTUS's presence -- that lead me to write today.

For a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others, one's ascent up the political ladder brings some fringe benefits such as often getting to skip some of the security harassment that Americans today endure. It's certainly true of modern presidents, who don't so much as sit through traffic anymore. I'm not the first person to observe that this can yield a certain detachment from what the rest of us know in our everyday lives.

But I do think I have a different kind of proposal to address it. I heard a lot of grumbling in the crowd last night that no president should ever attend an irrelevant event like the college football championship game. And to be honest, my first instinct was to agree with them.

The more I think about it, however, the more I think there's a better answer. As part of their orientation to the presidency, require our incoming chief executives to go through a simulated security line.

I say "simulated," because I'm sure there's no way the Secret Service would allow the president or president-elect to go through an actual security line. There's too much hazard and alcohol-fueled unpredictability. But it would be entirely possible to stage a simulation with Secret Service agents or other law enforcement that would send the desired message: This is what you put people through when you go where they're going. This is particularly important when they aren't going to a non-political event: If I go to a presidential speech or rally, I expect and can justify a certain amount of security. It's a little different when it's a football game, or a concert.

A crowded line on a hot day brings its own kind of misery, but a cold night (preferably a rainy one like Monday, too) will suffice. Stage a big enough crowd to ensure the experience will last a good hour. Make sure they're pushing on one another the way anxious crowds do. Have the president-elect drink a few bottles of water beforehand, and make him hold it in his bladder the whole time.

Then let the new president decide whether to attend an event like Monday night's football game, with the knowledge of what that means for the ordinary fans trying to get into the building as well. And let the rest of us judge that decision, knowing that he knows exactly what he's making us go through. 

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.