While the NFL continues to express optimism for the upcoming season, its teams must work out several logistical issues related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic before the start of training camp. One of those issues, the number of fans allowed to attend games, could vary significantly from state to state, with some barring crowds altogether and others given more leeway.
Because of this, the league has decided to allow clubs to set their own capacity limits at stadiums, according to a new report from The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan. Because some states will enforce health and safety guidelines such as social distancing and face coverings differently than others, the league does not believe it can set a uniform rule that would satisfy all its teams. That could mean entire regions of the country such as the West Coast could realistically host games with empty stadiums while contests in a state like Florida with fewer restrictions could come much closer to full capacity.
Money -- more specifically the fear of lost revenue -- serves as the primary motivation for the flexible policy. The players union recently forecasted as much as $3 billion in lost revenue should the league play the 2020 season without any fans. Accordingly, allowing for areas where crowds can assemble to move forward would mitigate the losses to the greatest degree possible.
That doesn't mean such an approach poses no risks, however. With more people accessing stadiums, players and team employees face a greater likelihood of exposure regardless of any other health and safety measures implemented. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already acknowledged that positive tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, will occur. How well the teams and players manage those positive tests remains to be seen.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH