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Football teams in an empty stadium
(Photo by Dan Powers / USA Today Network)
Football teams in an empty stadium
(Photo by Dan Powers / USA Today Network)

When the first COVID-19 case was introduced in the United States in January 2020, not too many thought we’d still be fighting it off a year later. In fact, not too many envisioned an NFL season where week-after-week teams would be playing in a near-empty stadium. Despite the heroic efforts by many frontline workers and countless hours of work from the world’s best scientists, the virus wouldn’t go away. But, throughout all of this, the United States took the right approach: the precautionary one. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Of course, the coronavirus affected many small businesses as they were forced to shut down during the lockdown. But, it also had an effect on multi-billion dollar businesses, such as the NFL. Throughout the entirety of the NFL 2020 Regular Season, Sundays no longer felt the same. People watching at home did not hear the roar of the crowd booming through their television, making their floor vibrate as the home team made a big play.

In fact, before the start of the season, there were conversations of having no season at all as teams were concerned about travel. As a result, the NFL canceled all four of its preseason games. When it was announced that the NFL was going to accord by the regular-season schedule, teams began announcing if they were going to be allowing fans at home games.

Of course, this varied by state and how it was doing in terms of respective COVID cases as well as the restrictions on public gatherings. From the start, there were certain teams, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, who announced they would allow a limited capacity at home games. The majority of the teams announced that there will be no fans at home games through the first month of the regular season. Meaning — after September, they would reassess how their state was dealing with the virus and plan accordingly.

While spectators always knew stadiums wouldn’t be filled up to 100% capacity throughout the 2020 season, they had hope for the future. It seems that a sprinkle of hope may be coming to fruition as we approach the new calendar year for the NFL. 

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Photo by Getty Images

In fact, at Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Florida, Raymond James Stadium allowed up to 25,000 fans. It was the most any team had allowed throughout the course of the season. 

All fans at the game were advised to socially distance and use hand sanitizer at their own risk. Perhaps the greatest gesture of them all — of the 25,000 in the stands, over 7,000 of them were vaccinated healthcare workers. 

This, of course, beckons the question, what does 2021 have in store?

“Oh, that’s possible. I think that’s possible”, Dr. Fauci responded to a question regarding packed NFL stadiums in 2021. 

On the day of the Super Bowl, President Biden discussed his hopes for the future:

“It’s my hope and expectation, if we’re able to put together and make up for all the lost time fighting COVID that’s occurred, we’ll be able to watch the Super Bowl with a full stadium. The Super Bowl is one of those great American celebrations. All those house parties, all those things that aren’t happening — but God willing, we’ll be able to celebrate it as usual a year from now.”

As it appears, fans should be expecting to pile back into stadiums to cheer their team on. 

It is worth noting that the only team to go throughout the entire NFL season without a single positive COVID case was the Seattle Seahawks.

Which leads me to my final point: when we come together with a common goal in mind, nothing can stop us.

That was the case throughout 2020 as this world came together and embraced one another. As frontline workers came together and embraced the challenge of risking their lives in fighting this horrid disease. 

Despite some positive cases and the rearranging of certain games, the NFL prevailed, just as the United States did.

The best is ahead.

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