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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 intends to allow fans back into the stands for the 2020 season, but there are some changes in store. Not every team plans on opening their games up to fans, and some teams are implementing far harsher regulations than others. 

As noted by ESPN, many teams are still approaching 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. Once the season kicks off on Sept. 10, any fan attending a game will be required to do so in a mask. 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. That includes the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets, the New York Giants, and the Las Vegas Raiders (considering reopened casinos have caused a coronavirus surge in Nevada, the last one shouldn’t be a surprise). 

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.

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. As of Aug. 29, only three teams (the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Dolphins) had committed to having fans in attendance for their first game of the season.

Sources: ESPN, NFL, CBS


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