Cartoon: Cowboys put out a welcome mat for the coronavirus in Dallas
Fans in NFL stadiums appear to add a lot of risk with little reward.
Instead of fans booing the Eagles on Sunday, they were greeted with cricket noises being piped into FedEx Field.
It’s no surprise the coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on the NFL. But because the league has franchises in cities across the country, rules impacting one team do not necessarily impact another. No where is that more evident in the stands.
While most teams won’t allow fans into their stadiums, more than 14,000 fans showed up in Jacksonville on Sunday to watch the Jaguars defeat the Indianapolis Colts. On Thursday night, 16,940 Chiefs fans watched Kansas City win the NFL season opener against the Houston Texans, even as Andy Reid wore a foggy face shield to protect himself from being infected.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hasn’t said how many fans will be allowed into AT&T Stadium for the team’s home opener on Sept. 20. But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s current coronavirus restrictions would permit upwards of 40,000 fans — 50% of the stadium’s capacity — to gather and watch the game.
According to the Dallas County health department, infections rates remained high in the city over the past week, with a coronavirus positivity rate of 10.8%. Compare that to Philadelphia, where the most recent data puts the positive rate somewhere around 4%.
I watched football all weekend, and I get the desire for normalcy — especially when it comes to sports. But is it really worth risking a potential superspreader event just to watch two teams face off on a Sunday afternoon?
Zach Binney, an epidemiologist who studies sports injury patterns at Oxford College of Emory University, was adamant during a July interview that there should be no fans in the stands of any sporting event until an effective coronavirus vaccine is developed and deployed.
“When you start talking about fans, you’re adding a whole lot of risk, including to the public, and all you’re getting is financial benefit for the league. I don’t care for it. It’s not worth it to me," Binney said on the Big Blue View podcast in July.
In Pennsylvania, Eagles and Steelers fans won’t be allowed back into their stadiums until infection rates decrease dramatically in the state, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Friday, noting “the governor strongly feels, and I strongly recommend, that we do not put people at risk in terms of putting them together in congregate settings.”
That’s especially important after the Eagles' terrible loss on Sunday, since booing seems like a great way to spread the virus.