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NFL COVID-19: Will the 20% Super Bowl capacity plan work?

Vincent Frank

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NFL COVID-19: There’s been a major backdrop to the ongoing 2020 season. Over half of the league’s teams have hosted fans for games during the pandemic. The league has left it up to both the teams and local leaders to decide on capacity levels. This will change once Super Bowl LV is held in Tampa Bay on Feb. 7.

NFL COVID-19: League plans to host fans at a limited capacity for Super Bowl LV

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the expectation is that Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay will be at 20% capacity for the big game. That would mean 13,000-15,000 fans attending the NFL’s biggest annual event.

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It’s obviously not what the NFL wants to see from both an entertainment and financial perspective. However, the current nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States coupled with projections for the winter and early next year makes this an obvious decision.

“We are likely to see massive explosions of cases and outbreaks that could potentially make what we’ve seen so far look like it hasn’t been that much,” Dr. Michael Mina, a professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health recently told NPR.

Estimations include nearly 400,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by February with continued easing of virus-related restrictions.

Health officials and doctors have been clear about what is happening in the United States relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the rest of the world also continues to see upticks in cases, the United States remains ground zero for COVID-19.

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That has been the case for several months now as the country struggles with a nationwide policy to prevent further spread.

This news comes with the NFL having reported 19 new cases of the virus around the league over the past week. It also comes as the league attempts to navigate through its season while dealing with a growing pandemic. The NFL has changed its schedule multiple times after outbreaks of COVID-19 within the Tennessee Titans‘ and New England Patriots‘ organizations.

News that the Titans were fined $350,000 for violating league-mandated protocols was recently followed by other news that the Las Vegas Raiders are facing a stiff fine and a potential loss of draft picks for their own violations of said protocols.

Will the NFL’s 20% capacity plan for the big game work?

NFL COVID-19: Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
Sep 21, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden before a NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If the sporting world’s biggest event is to be played as scheduled on Feb. 7, players and teams are going to have to take COVID-19 more seriously. The above-mentioned Raiders are a prime example of this.

“As an organization, we are on the cutting edge of beating the virus,” Gruden said earlier this week. On the cutting edge of COVID-19 outbreaks? Sure.

Remember, the Raiders’ entire starting offensive line was sent home prior to last week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That came after right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19. He didn’t wear his tracker, leading to an inability of the organization to contact trace.

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Meanwhile, Gruden himself was fined for not wearing a mask during a Week 2 game against the Saints. That game also saw New Orleans head coach Sean Payton fined for the season reason.

As for the Raiders, the NFL fined multiple players for violating both the league’s COVID-19 protocols and the local health initiative in the Vegas suburb of Henderson while attending a charity event.

These are just a few examples out of many as it relates to NFL players and teams not taking the COVID-19 virus seriously while failing to listen to both health officials and doctors in this field over the past several weeks.

If this continues, the idea of the big game being played in the first place becomes problematic. That doesn’t even include the NFL’s plan to host it with 20% capacity.

Simply put, the NFL, it’s players and the teams need to do better.