COVID-19 has profoundly changed the sports world. Major League Baseball is doing the best it can despite a rocky start. The NBA and NHL are both operating inside respective bubbles. Owners, athletes, and commissioners across the spectrum are making sacrifices to ensure everyone’s safety. Then there’s the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
The owner of “America’s Team” has always marched to the beat of his own drum. When it comes to dealing with COVID, he intends to do it his way.
Jerry Jones catches some heat
When the NFL’s 32 teams retake the field this September, they will have to contend with the full brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s easier said than done given that football is a contact sport. Social distancing is not an option on the field.
While the league is taking some aggressive measures to keep the athletes as safe as possible, reports NPR, that doesn’t really help the fans much. If you’ve ever been to an NFL stadium you know that you’re basically stuck in an enclosed space for six hours at a time with 80,000 of your closest friends.
So far, the NFL is leaving stadium attendance up to owners, who must work in accordance with state officials to meet respective state health department regulations. Some teams, like the Jets, Falcons, and Patriots, won’t allow fans into their stadiums until at least October, but Jones and the Cowboys have said “Full speed ahead!” and he’s caught some flack for the decision.
Jones is smart though. In his opinion, reopening the stadium is a calculated risk that’s well worth it.
Implementing safety protocols
Rest assured, Jones and the Cowboys front end staff aren’t rushing into their decision blindly. They’ve got a plan. For starters, the 80,000 person stadium won’t be at full capacity, reports Sports Pro. Current Texas state regulations dictate that sporting venues can only have an occupancy of 50% of its max. That cuts attendees down to 40,000.
Entrance into the stadium, which involves passing through a series of metal detectors, will enable the stadium staff to enforce social distancing. Add to that the fact that everyone 10 years or older will be required to wear a mask while in the stadium, reports WFAA, and the beginning of a safety plan starts to emerge.
More than 300 hand sanitizer stations will be set up around the stadium. That might not matter much because Dallas is attempting to limit physical contact as much as possible. There will be no cash purchases allowed inside the stadium. Concessions and merchandise will use virtual purchase options such as Apple Pay.
To top it all off, Jones has implemented top of the line cleaning procedures, including using a stadium-wide, micro fogging spray and CDC-approved mop heads.
Will it be enough?
The question remains: will Jones’ effort be enough? Right now, the NBA is the model to beat. Their bubble method, in which all participating teams and players are quarantined together at an Orlando resort, without fans present, is going well. Safety is their number one concern, and there haven’t been any issues so far.
MLB, which has an extensive list of rules and regulations regarding Coronavirus preparedness, has had to postpone some games despite their aggressive interventions. From the perspective of other major sports entities, the NFL seems to be playing the reopening game fast and loose.
Jones isn’t concerned though. He’s used the Cowboys’ sizable assets to put as many safety measures as possible into place. In his opinion, America needs football right now. In his eyes, the reward is worth the risk.