The NFL is ready to embark on a season of the unknown. There are many uncertainties heading into the 2020 season as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc. Many NFL teams have stated no fans, at least to begin the season, will be permitted to watch games in person. Jerry Jones, however, has said there will be fans in the stands watching the Dallas Cowboys, and his comment drew some criticism.
At best, most stadiums will have very few fans
While things are still up in the air regarding how many fans would be allowed to attend NFL games this year, some have already shut down the idea of having fans. At least through the early portion of the season, 12 teams have officially announced zero fans will be in attendance, according to a tweet from San Diego’s 10News. Many teams were on the fence about having very minimal or no fans at all to begin the season.
The picture is becoming a bit clearer as the season draws near. In mid-July, the New York Giants and New York Jets were playing it safe, saying they were expecting to go without fans all year. “We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, both the Giants and Jets will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance,” the Giants said in a statement.
Others are taking things day by day. The Seattle Seahawks just announced they wouldn’t be allowing fans in the stadium for the team’s first three home games. The Houston Texans said there will be no fans to begin but will be monitoring the virus. “Whether fans can attend other home games later in the season will depend on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the greater Houston area, which is currently at the highest threat level (RED),” the team said.
Jerry Jones said the Cowboys will have fans
While the Houston Texans have acknowledged the high COVID-19 numbers in Texas, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his expectation will be that fans will be in attendance when the Dallas Cowboys play this season. Jones said his stadium is unique and will be an asset when it comes to having fans at the games.
We’re very unique in we have the suite capacities we have out there that give us some extra control,” Jones said, according to NFL.com. “We also have a stadium that has 3 million square feet in it…when you look at a number in the stadium, don’t think that number’s getting together out there, they’re not. It’ll be in pods of possibly five, 10, 15 different people. Our stadium is well suited to put together numbers of people that have elected to come and want to watch the Dallas Cowboys play.” Jones said he wouldn’t make a guess as to how many people would attend.
As of today, Texas allows up to 50 percent capacity for sporting events, meaning 40,000 fans would be able to attend under those guidelines. “We’ll adhere to all protocols and we will adapt to the uniqueness of our stadium and that’s within the protocol,” Jones said. “We have a real unique situation and I think that we’re going to be able to really have a great experience. I think that our safety precautions that we’re doing won’t be unfamiliar to a lot of people when we look at the general protocol of the country or we look at how you get together numbers of people.”
Jones taking some heat in saying fans will attend
Many NFL players have opted out of the 2020 season because of health concerns. Major League Baseball has had several games postponed because of players testing positive. The NBA’s ‘bubble’ plan appears to be working, but the NFL isn’t following that format, and teams will be traveling and playing in their respective stadiums.
Dr. Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University and big-time Miami Dolphins fan, told The New York Times on Wednesday that anything outside a bubble could be problematic. “I’m a football guy,” Binney said. “Watching those games on Sunday is like church for me and my dad. I have not missed a game in 25 years. I want this season more than anything right now. But I fear if you do anything outside of a bubble it might get ugly.”
With the virus seeing rapid spikes in states where NFL games will be played – Texas, Florida, California, Missouri – Dr. Binney said it’s “absurd” when Jones and others are looking to have fans attend games. “It’s absurd,” he said. “If you allow fans, you are absolutely creating a public health threat.”