Opinion | Sporting events burden chronically ill attendees

By Megan Harding, Columnist

The rules for attending sporting events can be inconvenient: No water bottles unless they’re clear and less than 20 ounces, and bags must be clear and no bigger than the size of a hand.

For someone with a chronic illness, these rules could even be dangerous. Accessible medical necessities, water fountains and restrooms are critical for going out. Moreover, essential medical supplies may not fit in a small bag.

Some of these rules make sense despite the struggles that comes with them. It’s difficult to determine if one person in a crowd of thousands is concealing a weapon or illegal substance. Essentially, it’s necessary to have some of these rules to keep everyone safe.

However, the line between safety and performative security is blurred when no more than a 20-ounce water bottle is allowed in the stadium.

High temperatures are not uncommon in Illinois, especially at the beginning of the semester. For those with chronic illnesses, heat may exacerbate medical problems.

Leaving the crowded bleachers is not always easy. After arriving at the water fountains — or, 100 feet away from them — there can be a 15-minute line just to refill 20 ounces of water that will last for maybe 20 minutes before the process repeats.

Or, if one prefers to buy bottled water, there is often another like just as long to purchase some.

The reasoning behind the clear, 20-ounce water bottle rule can be attributed to preventing alcohol from being smuggled in. But if somebody is that determined, the same plastic bottle can easily smuggle clear alcohol. However, plenty of alcoholic beverages are also sold at concessions — so the reasoning for the rule may be to make a profit.

Accessing the restroom at sporting events is also a difficult task. Illnesses are unpredictable and stressful, especially when the nearest restroom requires stepping over rows of people and waiting in a long line.

If navigating through these obstacles was not already difficult, those with chronic illness are likely to experience beratement from staff for breaking the rules, even if they disclose their medical condition.

To help make sporting events more accessible for those with chronic illnesses, sporting venues could create more water bottle filling stations near the stands, more accessible bathroom locations and modified rules that maintain safety while giving people easier access to their belongings — especially if it’s medical supplies.

When the safety of some is ignored, it raises concerns about the grounds the rules are made on. These rules are put in place to keep people safe, but they are putting those with chronic illnesses in harm’s way.

Megan is a freshman in Media.
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