Apparently, the National Football League is discussing the possibility of playing a shortened season and holding games in empty or partially-filled stadiums as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL’s official position is still that it plans to stage an undisturbed 2020 season amid the ongoing health crisis. This includes holding the 2020 NFL Draft later this month in a virtual format with commissioner Roger Goodell making selections from his home basement.
However, according to the Washington Post and other sources, the league has been privately discussing the realities of how best to resume activities due to the coronavirus crisis.
The release of the schedule for the 2020 regular season, on or around May 9, is expected to account for the possibility of games being lost by a delayed start.
A source told the newspaper:
“I don’t know if it’ll be a one-third-filled stadium, a half-filled stadium or whatever. The NFL is planning for everything from playing without fans to playing in full stadiums. We know there will be a push from the [federal] government to open things up.”
The NFL said in a statement:
“Our guidelines and decisions will be guided by the latest advice from medical and public health officials, as well as current and future government regulations. We will continue to plan for the season and will be prepared to adjust as necessary, just as we have done with free agency, the draft, and now the offseason program.”
The news came shortly after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the leading infectious disease expert in the United States, outlined a plan under which he said sports events sports could return in the summer in empty stadiums and with players undergoing frequent-testing and self-isolation.
Fauci explained when speaking on Snapchat’s show Good Luck America:
“There’s a way of doing that. Nobody comes to the stadiums. Put (athletes) in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well-surveilled, but have them tested like every week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their families and just let them play the season out.”
Goodell is one of numerous US sports league commissioners and senior executives named to a federal government committee that will advise US President Donald Trump on lifting commercial and societal restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.