What will NFL football like look in the middle of a global pandemic? It’s a question players around the league are still waiting to get an answer on. As the Big Ten and Pac-12 have announced their leagues will not play college football in 2020, some NFL teams are reportedly gearing up to have fans in the stadium. The Dallas Cowboys are one of them.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones met the media on Wednesday and stated his intention to have fans at AT&T Stadium during Cowboys games this season.
“The Dallas Cowboys plan on playing football, and we plan on playing in front of our fans,” Jones told the media on Tuesday in his first press conference since the NFL draft. “I think it’s important. I think it’s important individually. I think it’s important for the country.”
Jones said he doesn’t yet have an expectation for how many fans could be in attendance, but noted the Cowboys would follow state protocols. Currently, Texas is planning on having sporting events at 50 percent capacity.
For the massive AT&T Stadium, that would mean potentially 40K people even if it’s half-full.
It’s hard to see how this could be safe for the general public, but there’s little doubt the NFL will do everything in its power to keep revenue flowing by putting fans in seats. We’re starting to get an idea of what NFL attendance could look like this season.
How will the NFL pull off having fans in the stands?
Get ready for “pods” to be the hottest buzzword of the NFL season.
Reporter Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported some speculation on how the NFL will go about putting fans in the stands as the pandemic rages on. The idea is apparently to seat parties as big as 10 or 15 people together and have them socially distance from other parties in the stands. The Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and the Cowboys are reportedly iron out the details now.
#Chiefs, #Cowboys, #Patriots…they are all working on a “pods” system of attendance. And I’ve been told it’s the system that appears to have most traction across the league for the teams that hope to include fan attendance. https://t.co/S9C1j3wsYS
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) August 12, 2020
Jones even hinted at this idea in his press conference.
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. I won’t speculate on a number.”
AT&T Stadium is of course the largest in the NFL and features modern amenities that many NFL stadiums don’t. Jones noted the stadium’s “naturally built airflow” as a reason the franchise could pull it off. It’s easy to roll your eyes at a sentiment like that.
Perhaps pods of fans could work in the NFL, but it would certainly require a ton of planning. So far, the NFL has been noticeably absent in detailing those plans to both fans and players.
There’s still one big problem with having NFL fans in the stands
You guessed it: the pandemic that we’ve been stuck in since March is still very much a part of our daily existence. No, the Dallas Cowboys and their fans aren’t immune to it.
Jones said he’s expecting fans to be responsible and make decisions about how to stay safe:
“I am completely confident that if I’ve ever seen a general population have had information of where the issues are, where the vulnerabilities are, how to conduct yourself, the do-right rule relative to the person with you and beside you that you do or you don’t know, I’m confident that we have very educated situation and that our fans can come and have a safe experience at our stadium along with of course our players having the safety they’re required on the football,” he said.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that people are making reckless decisions with regards to Covid. It’s happening all over Major League Baseball, and it will likely happen to football fans attending games in person this year, too.
Jones said he believes it’s “important for our country” to have fans in the stands at NFL games. Well, it’s more important to keep people safe and squash the pandemic in the United States once and for all.
Maybe the NFL will be able to safely pull off pods. What’s frustrating is how quiet the NFL has been so about what protocols will look like for the players up to this point. If the NFL is serious about this, let’s see a detailed plan for how everyone who loves the game — from fans to athletes — can safely enjoy it. Until then, it’s hard not to be skeptical at the idea of AT&T Stadium at 50 percent capacity this fall.