Will NFL fans be able to go to games during the pandemic?

can nfl games go to games
Photo via Erik Drost/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Fans can attend some NFL games, but not all
  • Masks are now required at all NFL stadiums
  • Many teams are approaching the season with a ‘wait and see’ attitude

The coronavirus pandemic has been raging for more than five months now. Between continued quarantine measures, mask wearing, and social distancing, most people are desperate for a distraction. We’ve already binged everything Netflix has to offer, so sports fans are looking ahead to the upcoming NFL season with a level of eager trepidation. But can fans go to NFL games in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you were hoping to break your quarantine with a visit to a football stadium, you might be in luck. The NFL has allowed fans back into the stands for the 2020 season, but there have some changes in store. Not every team has opened their games up to fans, and some teams are implementing far harsher regulations than others. 

As noted by ESPN, many teams approached the season with a “wait and see” attitude. If infection numbers go down and stadiums can open their doors with reasonable safety, then fans can return to watching games live, even if stadiums are at reduced capacity. 

Life will be different even for those lucky fans who get to watch games at the stadium, however. Some players are opting to sit out the season for fear of the virus, which has killed nearly 800,000 people worldwide as of Aug. 20. Players from a number of teams, including the New England Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower, the New York Jets’ C.J. Mosley, the New York Giants’ Nate Solder, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Damien Williams, the Miami Dolphins’ Allen Hurns, and the Green Bay Packers’ Devin Funchess, to name a few, will be sitting out the upcoming season. 

On top of the player absences, attendees of any in-person game will be required to wear masks. A league-wide mask enforcement was passed in mid-July, and many stadiums are operating at limited capacity. This requirement supersedes state restrictions, meaning that even if your state doesn’t require masks, you will still be required to don one for the duration of your time in the stadium.

That’s if you can even get a seat. While some stadiums are allowing a limited number of fans into seats, plenty will completely close their doors—at least for now.

Either way, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott can’t understand why different stadiums can have different policies.

“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that’s like that, inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums,” McDermott said. “But it is what it is. We control what we control. That’s gotta be our mindset and that’s how we adapt.”

In a new study released in September, it was found that stadium attendance numbers that were significantly reduced for English soccer games still contributed to higher COVID-19 numbers in local areas.

On Sept. 10, in the first game of the 2020 NFL season, about 17,000 fans watched the Chiefs beat the Texans in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. But in Week 2, Washington owner Daniel Snyder had to forgo his team’s trip to Arizona because he had been in close contact with somebody who tested positive for the coronavirus. On Sept. 29, it was announced that three Tennessee Titans players (and five other officials) tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive and couldn’t play in the team’s Week 4 game vs. the Chiefs. As a result, the league put in place new protocols that will implement a video system that will make sure players and officials are wearing PPE while at a team facility. The NFL also banned outside gatherings for players. Meanwhile, Patriots fans won’t get the chance to attend any games during the 2020 season.

Before Week 5 began, a total of eight teams had to have their schedules adjusted because of more league coronavirus cases.

In October, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed his state’s teams to let fans fully fill the stadiums. But the Miami Dolphins are capping their attendance at 13,000. By Week 7, the New Orleans Saints were allowed to fill 3,000 of their stadium’s 73,000 seats.

But before Week 11 began as the country’s cases and deaths continue to rise, the NFL mandated that all teams impose intensive protocols, meaning that players would have to meet virtually only and wear masks during practice.

By late November, it was revealed that the 49ers might need to move their final three home games of the season and all their practices after Santa Clara County imposed stricter mandates following a surge in cases. Fans haven’t been allowed at 49ers games all season.

Here’s a handy list for each of the 32 teams to help answer the question if fans can go to NFL games for the 2020 season.

But there might be some good news ahead. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, the 2021 season could see stadiums filled with fans.

Sources: ESPN, NFL, CBS

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