October 17, 2020
By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) – For the first time this season more than half of this weekend’s NFL games will welcome fans, the league said on Saturday as it carries out its 2020 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nine of the 14 Week 6 National Football League (NFL) games will permit fans, while 18 of the 32 teams across the league have been approved to welcome ticket holders, a spokesman confirmed.
The NFL was forced to shuffle its schedule earlier this week due to positive COVID-19 tests among players and personnel, and ramped up its safety protocols earlier this month, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the pre-season and the annual Pro Bowl game.
The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday reporting 8,028,332 total infections and 217,918 deaths.
In an effort to keep its season on track, the NFL recently escalated potential punishments for teams found flouting its coronavirus prevention measures, including the possible forfeiture of games.
A handful of coaches were fined after appearing on the sidelines of Week 2 games without proper face coverings. Their affiliated teams also received fines.
But the league has largely left it up to the discretion of individual teams – and their local and state lawmakers – whether to permit fans on gamedays.
Teams have slowly reopened their doors. The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Tuesday that it would allow 7,500 people inside its 70,000-capacity stadium for Sunday’s showdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who take on rival Cleveland Browns Sunday, had reopened to fans earlier this month after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf earlier this month eased restrictions on public gatherings in the state.
The Carolina Panthers, the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys are the remaining teams that will welcome spectators in Week 6, the league said.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)