NFL teams like the Chiefs might be able to set their own attendance parameters in 2020.
While the NFL has been working with closely with health officials to manage every aspect of league and team operations since the outset of the pandemic in the U.S. due to COVID-19, a new report from Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic says that each individual franchise might be autonomous in terms of the parameters set about live attendance at NFL games in 2020.
"“Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing,” said one NFL source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of coronavirus planning in NFL. “It will not be a one size fits all."
In just over a month, the NFL is scheduled to begin the preseason with the goal of playing every regular season game as scheduled regardless of the spread of the coronavirus. Of course, things can change, but the league has bullish about the idea that games will be played as originally scheduled and so far the league has been able to conduct both free agency and the annual first-year player draft without interruption as well.
That said, several states are experiencing a resurgence of the virus and any possibility of a vaccine is still several months away (if not longer). While major sports are all in the process of returning, it’s possible the elevation of cases and spread of the coronavirus could halt such plans as each league adjusts plans on the fly in the middle of a global pandemic. Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted recently that a major spread of the virus could halt the league’s scheduled plan to return in July.
Such a move to allow for each individual county or even state to decide what is best for the particular local population could be a major incentive for stronger measures to stave off the spread of the coronavirus (e.g. with masks enforced, etc.).
It will be interesting to see if this turns into an official policy heading into the season. Local officials would have to decide what would be in the best interest of public safety while also dealing with fans dying to get into Arrowhead to cheer on the Chiefs as normal. The team is returning to defend their title and Chiefs Kingdom is rightfully excited. Yet the thought of tens of thousands of people gathering together for hours is a serious consideration in any city.
At this point, it’s clear that most enterprises, including major sports, are making things up as they go given the uncertainty of most things related to COVID-19.