The NFL is close to returning, but it faces quite a messy situation regarding its stadiums nonetheless. While the majority of teams have said that they will play behind closed doors for the first few games at least, there are exceptions. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys are in that latter camp.
The Chiefs confirmed that they will allow 17,000 fans to attend home games in Arrowhead Stadium, a 22 percent capacity. It’s a far cry from the NBA’s bubble format. For that and other reasons, many football players have followed in the footsteps of basketballers and baseball stars in opting out. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at 20 reasons why NFL teams should avoid packing teams into stadiums this season.
We’ve analyzed different teams’ approaches and potential outcomes via CNN. Check out the list below.
20. Money Isn’t Everything
The main reason why NFL franchises are desperate to bring back fans is obviously so revenues don’t suffer. Unlike other US sports, they have escaped relatively lightly from the onslaught of the recent crisis because of the NFL calendar. But that luck is about to run out.
Last season ended just before the health crisis began, and we’re about six months deep into it now. The league’s franchise owners must be pragmatic and realize that packing fans into stadiums is a bad idea because it could actually cost them if stadiums have to fully close.
City of Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer told the Kansas City Star that the Chiefs’ plan is absolutely not foolproof. He warned that high-risk individuals should avoid going to games because of the increased risk. There will still be 17,000 people inside Arrowhead Stadium, so you can understand his concern.
It’s true that’s well shy of the 75,000 capacity, but it’s still a lot of fans to handle. First of all, people have to enter and leave the stadiums safely. Then when they’re outside, the franchise also has a responsibility to make sure that they don’t congregate together. It is no easy task considering that Arrowhead Stadium is one of the tailgating meccas of the NFL. Overall, a lot could go wrong.
The Chiefs assured the media that all fans in attendance must wear masks. This makes sense because they help reduce the chances of infections from particles. Masks are proven to reduce the chance of contaminating other people and objects.
But a lot of people think that it’s an attack on their personal liberty. If all of the NFL franchises open up their stadiums to fans, chances are that someone is going to mess up mask etiquette. Even if they subconsciously pull it down to their chins because their face is too hot, it is highly feasible.
Unlike the NBA, the NFL is not going to use a ‘bubble’ model for their restart. Firstly, this was much easier to do for the NBA because they were effectively in their postseason so there was automatically a reduced number of games. It would be difficult for the NFL to do so during the regular season.
But this means a lot of traveling and an increased risk for players. Should they really be bringing fans into stadiums at this point? In short, the issue has divided NFL owners. Many believe that it’s already risky enough to restart without bringing thousands more people into the equation.
If more NFL teams allow thousands of fans to attend their games, it presents a real and present risk to the new season. The worst possible outcome would be for state governors to issue stay-at-home orders and prevent sports events from going ahead at all.
This would be disastrous for the integrity of the competition. It would also present public health risks all across the country. Furthermore, TV revenues would diminish because games are not going ahead. If anything gets football owners’ attention it should be the potential damage to their bank accounts.
MLB provided the perfect template of how not to restart. In sum, there is a higher chance of getting sick on a road trip than if you just stay in one place. We’ve seen dozens of teams lose players because of this and several others chose to opt out of the season.
To sum up, the NFL needs to take a good look at this and make sure that they don’t repeat the same mistakes. It would be a humiliating disaster if similar results happen. Packings fans into stadiums will only enhance the likelihood of it all going wrong.
Now that the reigning Super Bowl champions have made their decision, it’s possible other teams will follow their lead. At least they intend to spread out fans inside the Arrowhead Stadium, but will every NFL franchise handle this efficiently?
Jerry Jones’s eye practically shone like dollar signs when he spoke about bringing fans back to AT&T Stadium. He told CNN that they’ll probably have pods of five, 10, or 15 people. There’s a big difference between five and 15. In short, the potential for it to go wrong is massive.
There are many different types of fans in the NFL. A lot depends on the region they come from. While many will be eager to come back on game day one, others will disapprove of this. The risk is that they will appear greedy by bringing fans back during such a dangerous time.
As a result, this could alienate sections of their fanbases. It’s not good business to scare away people from your franchise if you want to make money off of them. If an NFL stadium causes a surge in cases then it will definitely stop some people from attending games.
One of the reoccurring storylines of the global health crisis is the fact that athletes believe that sports organizers don’t take their health seriously enough. A total 66 players have already opted out of this season because they think playing is too much of a risk.
The NFL will pay high-risk players who chose to opt out $350,000 for the season. Meanwhile, players not deemed as high-risk can claim $150,000. Chiefs’ starting right guard Laurent Duverney-Tardif was the first to take this option. A medical school graduate, he believes NFL owners underestimate the danger.
It’s not just the players who have to worry, it’s also the coaches. Many of these men are veterans of the sport and past middle age. For example, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick is 68 while the Chiefs’ Andy Reid is 62. That’s not to say that these men are old, but we also have to be realistic.
On paper, these coaches are much more vulnerable than young athletes in the prime of their fitness and lives. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but in truth bringing thousands of fans into stadiums won’t help keep teams’ coaching staffs safe. It’s not an easy position.
The NFL has created a whole bunch of protocols to keep players and team staff safe. This includes regular testing as well as heavy fines if they don’t wear a mask or accept testing. Furthermore, they must wear a Kinexon proximity recording device for contact tracing. It also warns if they are too close to another player.
That’s all well and good, but football is a contact sport so the Kinexon device seems pointless. Furthermore, if teams like the Chiefs and the Cowboys allow thousands of fans into their stadiums then surely that diminishes the effectiveness of these measures.
Even though we’ve passed the deadline where NFL players could choose to opt out, let’s be real, more could get spooked. The Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the most high-profile players to voice their concerns about returning. However, he later retracted his remarks.
With 32 teams zooming around the nation the potential for an outbreak is obviously there. Thousands of fans only enhance the likelihood of this happening. The best players in the league may decide that it just isn’t worth risking their health or their family’s in this situation.
The NFL has to take some responsibility for this because they have failed to provide guidance in this situation. Instead, teams are making their own decisions. This is problematic because not all of them have public health in mind when making those plans.
Many NFL owners court political favors and will do whatever it takes to extend their own personal influence. However, if the NFL introduced a plan to reintroduce fans slowly, then teams might follow the same playbook. Leadership is key in a situation like this and right now there isn’t much.
The NFL calendar just can’t afford a fixture pile-up. But that’s exactly what could happen if they have to postpone games. We’ve already looked at MLB’s disastrous restart and the problems that they are facing. However, the NFL should look at the English Premier League as a template.
Premier League soccer teams also travel around the country to play games. However, no fans are present in the stadiums because of the health risk they provide. It’s a one-size-fits-all solution. While it is damaging in terms of ticket revenue, it keeps the TV money coming in. The NFL should seriously consider a similar approach.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a face familiar to American people during this health crisis. Fauci believes that the NFL should be in a bubble. In short, this means each conference would gather in one place with rigorous daily testing.
Furthermore, fans are very clearly not welcome in this environment. However, the NFL has chosen to ignore this advice and instead is having a free-for-all. Let’s hope that this decision – or lack of decisions – doesn’t come back to haunt them because people want to watch their team play.
Speaking of medical advice, the truth of the situation is that cases are rising every day globally and in the United States. There are almost 180,000 related deaths in the United States. That’s an extremely grim statistic and shows just how serious this crisis is.
Allow us to put that in perspective. The current numbers are higher than US casualties in World War One, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan combined. In sum, this probably not the best time to take a chance and bring thousands of fans back into stadiums.
We’ve already spoken about how NFL owners don’t care about the little man. Their franchises are like medieval fiefdoms. Outside influences do play a part, as we’ve seen with US President Donald Trump. Love him or loathe him, the President does have a keen interest in football.
Jerry Jones is just one of many owners with a strong connection to him. It’s an election year so he wants to mobilize his support in all shapes and forms. The President has been vocal about wanting college football to come back but also wants fans back in stadiums too.
One of the main issues with bringing fans back is that it will be a logistical nightmare. How do you decide who can come back? If we use Kansas City as a case study, you can see the problem. In short, they’re Super Bowl holders and would fill their 75,000 seats every week.
But now they’ve curtailed their capacity by 60,000. Furthermore, how do you deal with everybody who comes in? Are they going to test all of the fans or just do body temperature checks? A football stadium isn’t like a shopping mall because it has direct implications for a season.
It’s easy to argue that it’s just irresponsible to bring these numbers of people together. The Chiefs’ around 17,000 is larger than the population of the majority of towns and villages in the United States. Yet, many of them are following tough restrictions. It just doesn’t set a good example.
Furthermore, if other franchises are not in the position to let fans back in, there’s a strong chance that their fans will resent this. It’s also possible that they could just gather outside of their home stadiums. This would be worse than actually letting them in because there would be no control whatsoever.
In the end, this is what it comes down to. When even Dan Snyder says that the current situation is too unpredictable to risk bringing fans back, then it’s probably a good idea to listen. Snyder has the moral compass of an invading Mongol.
But the situation is constantly changing. Outbreaks happen and worsen, then they ease off. It may be more pragmatic to just wait for it to hopefully blow over. Then they can bring fans back and start milking them for dollars once again, because that’s how sports works.