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It’s safe to say the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season is one of the most anticipated starts to an NFL season for one reason — it’s never been certain that it would ever happen. Now that the day has arrived, NFL fans can all collectively breathe a sigh of relief.

While it’s here, it’s important to recognize it’s going to be dramatically different. The most noticeable difference will be obvious from the very beginning in the stands. Some stadiums will have NFL fans. Most will not. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect in all the stadiums today around the NFL. 

What other leagues have done with fans

The UFC was the first sport to return from the pandemic-induced hiatus back in May. The sport opted to go with the bubble approach and returned with no fans. Since that day, all the other leagues have returned or started their seasons, and the approaches have varied.

The MLS, NBA, and NHL all resumed their seasons and did so in a bubble. As a result, no fans were allowed. The first sport to take the non-bubble approach was MLB. Despite playing in ballparks around the country, MLB opted to do it without fans as well.

The first time fans were allowed in stadiums in any sports started in August when MLS teams had returned to their home cities. And the number of fans, if at all, was contingent on state and local regulations. The biggest introduction of fans to sports has occurred in the last couple of weeks as college football games have allowed fans to return on a limited basis. 

NFL fans allowed in stands to start the season

The Kansas City Chiefs officially kicked off the season on Thursday night hosting the Houston Texans. The Chiefs are one of just a few teams allowing NFL fans into the stands to start the season. The Chiefs capacity of 16,046, is the second-highest capacity allowed in any stadium behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will have a capacity of 16,791 in their home opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Those two games are the only ones in Week 1 that will allow NFL fans in the stands. In the next couple of weeks, seven other home teams have announced their plans to allow NFL fans in the stands. 

  • Cincinnati Bengals (no fans for home opener; will host 6,000 fans for following two home games)
  • Cleveland Browns (max of 6,789 fans for first two home games)
  • Dallas Cowboys (fans allowed but no set number provided)
  • Denver Broncos (no fans for home opener; will host 5,700 for second home game Sept. 27)
  • Indianapolis Colts (max of 2,500 fans)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (max of 16,791 fans)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (max of 16,046 fans)
  • Miami Dolphins (max of 13,000 fans)

NFL fans not allowed in stands

No NFL fans in stands.
No NFL fans in stands. | Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While there are currently just eight teams that have announced plans for allowing NFL fans in the stands, the remaining 24 teams have offered a variety of plans and timelines for NFL fans returning to the stands.

Some teams have explicitly stated they will not allow NFL fans in the stands for the entire 2020 season and include the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Football Team.

Many teams have stated they will not have NFL fans in the stands for at least the first two games, including the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Numerous teams have announced there will not be NFL fans allowed in the stands until further notice and they include the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, both LA teams, both NY teams, and the Philadelphia Eagles. 

There’s no denying it will look very odd to start the 2020 season without NFL fans in the stands. But hopefully, with the COVID numbers steadily declining, in at least a few week’s time there will be a limited amount of fans back in the stands offering some sense of normalcy. And right now, anything resembling normalcy is a step in the right direction.  

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