Football fans raise concerns over NFL COVID-19 policy

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“Simply put, compliance is mandatory,” National Football League Commissioner, Roger Goodell said regarding the league’s COVID-19 policy. “Now is the time to recommit ourselves to our protocols and best practices for the duration of the season.”

The first NFL regular season game affected by COVID-19 was a matchup between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the week leading up to the game, 20 organization members of the Titans, including 10 players, all tested positive for the virus, leading to the game being postponed until week seven of the season.

Goodell emphasized that any violation of the COVID-19 protocols set forth by the NFL by players, coaches or other organization members would lead to disciplinary action and possible fines.

Goodell recognized the danger and health risk of allowing a team to play who were in contact with a teammate who tested positive for the virus.

“The consequences of rescheduling or even missing games are obvious,” Goodell said. “Our fans will be deprived of games. Competitive inequities will be introduced into our season. Players will not be paid for games not played and clubs will similarly suffer financial consequences.”

Jack Barron-Sluga, ’22, explained his view of the NFL’s handling of the pandemic and how he feels they have approached the situation.

I know that there is a strong push from the teams for fans in attendance and to get ticket revenue, but I don’t like that they have fans in the stands.

— Jack Barron-Sluga

Although Barron-Sluga expressed concern at how the NFL will adapt to the current situation, he discussed the way he ultimately feels about the NFL’s COVID-19 policy.

“They have done a good job of stopping a spread before it gets crazy but I think some more measures could be put in place so that they don’t need to postpone any more games,” Barron-Sluga said. “Also, I know that there is a strong push from the teams for fans in attendance and to get ticket revenue, but I don’t like that they have fans in the stands.”

Barron-Sluga pointed to other major sports leagues around the country and worldwide that have not allowed fans to attend professional games, and he feels that the NFL should follow suit.

“I’m just worried about a possible spread and tracing it back to a sporting event,” Barron-Sluga said. “I know that only a few have allowed fans and that is because the state allows it, but it would be nice to see the league officers come out and say that they shouldn’t allow any fans in the stadiums.”

Another NFL fan, Tyler Znaczko, ’24, had a slightly different opinion of the NFL’s handling of COVID-19.

“I think for a multi-billion dollar organization, the NFL had handled the virus very poorly,” Znaczko said. “With respect to the game procedures, I believe they have done just about all they can to minimize risk, but for training and outside of team functions, more needs to be done.”

Znaczko emphasized the importance of taking initiative against the virus in such a crucial and potentially dangerous situation.

“It is, in my opinion, irresponsible to send players home at the end of the day and just tell them to do their best to limit contact,” Znaczko said. “I feel to provide the safest possible environment for these players is to implement a situation like the NHL bubble to truly minimize risk to players, staff and league officials.”

Nick Tarasi, ’21, suggested the NFL could model other athletic leagues’ COVID-19 approach.

“I feel as if the NBA model and NHL model were both incredibly successful containing the virus considering there were no positive cases in either league’s bubble,” Tarasi said. “With fans being re-allowed back into stadiums, it gives football a new sense of importance as compared to the NHL or NBA which has zero fans throughout their seasons.”

Although Tarasi admired the way in which these other leagues approached COVID-19, he believes that the NFL should continue its practices.

“Obviously, more outbreaks could change the regular season completely, so we will just have to wait and see,” Tarasi said.