LSU football’s game against McNeese State marked several firsts: the first home game of the season, the first game without crowd-size restrictions since the pandemic began and the first with an athletic department attempt to enforce vaccine or testing requirements for attending fans.
Every fan who filed into Tiger Stadium on Saturday experienced the Tigers cruising to victory, but several failed to experience the "required" screenings at which attendees had to prove they were vaccinated against the coronavirus, had overcome an infection within the previous three months before game day or tested negative within the previous five days.
Several people reported on social media that they were able to enter the stadium without displaying any proof of any of the three requirements.
“It was an amazing time! And no (one) asked for my vaccination status or negative test result,” Emily Hebert wrote on Facebook following the game.
The restrictions were put in place as the university attempts to hold games without capacity restrictions as Louisiana battles its fourth and deadliest wave of COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
In an attempt to reduce the size of lines at the gates, the school also allowed fans to show their vaccine cards or test status earlier in the day at any of a dozen locations around campus in exchange for a wristband so ticket-takers know who is clear to enter.
Those locations were out of the paper wristbands — similar in appearance to those commonly handed out at concerts and Tigerland bars — more than three hours before the game kicked off.
A pandemic and recent hurricane were the furthest thing from the minds of many LSU fans Saturday as thousands gathered at Tiger Stadium for th…
The university knows there were some shortcomings with its first attempt at enforcing the mandate, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said.
“We are aware of individuals whose credentials were not checked, and we’re also aware of individuals who were checked more than once,” Ballard said. “As it was the first game, and it’s not surprising there were some kinks that we are working through.”
The experiences with the mandate’s enforcement weren’t universal, particularly for the fans who arrived early and were able to obtain a pre-screening wristband.
Greg Kass Jr., a New Orleans resident who graduated from LSU in 2015, said he a group of four others were given wristbands at one of the pre-screening kiosks roughly 5 hours before kickoff. Kass was given a wristband after using the LA Wallet app to prove his vaccination. When the group entered the stadium, Kass said he flashed his wristband and breezed through security.
“Earlier in the day when there wasn’t as many people, that’s when I had my interaction with it and it seemed to work as intended,” Kass said.
David Boulat and Jack Vaccarella both said they were vaccinated but did not receive wristbands and were not asked to present proof of their vaccination when entering the stadium about an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.
University administration will soon meet with the athletics department for a briefing on the protocols to identify any deficiencies, Ballard said.
When asked if the university is considering any changes to its enforcement plan, Ballard directed inquiries to LSU Athletics, which did not respond to requests for comment. The department also did not respond to an email asking how many pre-screening wristbands were printed and distributed before the game.
Despite the reports of lackluster enforcement, Ballard said the advanced announcement of the protocols ensured “everyone attending knew they needed to either be vaccinated or provide a negative test to enter the stadium.”
But some fans are already doubting the seriousness of the mandate after breezing through stadium checkpoints without scrutiny.
“I spent $102 for my negative test for some political smoke and mirrors,” Barret Blondeau wrote on Facebook.