If you don’t like wearing masks, you won’t like going to NFL games this season.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it appears for now you won’t be going to Seahawks games this COVID-19 season, anyway.
In a best-case-scenario policy that presumes NFL cities and states will permit fans to watch from inside stadiums this fall, the league has mandated all people attending games must wear a mask.
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy made that clear on Twitter Wednesday.
The Atlanta Falcons announced “we are currently planning to have between 10,000 and 20,000 fans at our games this season. Masks will be required for all fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”
The Seahawks are scheduled to begin their season in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Falcons on Sept. 13.
The Seahawks’ ticket office has been mapping out its 68,740-seat home stadium to host only perhaps 10,000-20,000 fans, or fewer, for each game. That’s because of ongoing social-distancing requirements in King County.
But even 10,000-20,000 fans at games in Seattle seems extremely optimistic.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced last month requirements for professional sports plus amateur and youth sports as part of Washington’s state Safe Start return from COVID-19 restrictions.
King County remains in phase two of a four-phase Safe Start program that is trying to contain the COVID-19 virus in Washington.
If and when the Seattle area advances to phase three, the state government will still not permit large-scale sporting events with fans attending.
Inslee announced this month every county in the state will remain in its current phase until at least July 28.
That’s the day the Seahawks are due to fully report to training camp for the first of two COVID-19 tests through month’s end.
The only time sporting events with large gatherings of fans is allowed in Washington per current policy is in phase four.
It would take a dramatic and favorable turn in COVID-19 cases in King County between now and September for Seattle to be in phase four.
That is, for state regulations to allow the Seahawks to have fans inside CenturyLink Field for their first home game. That’s scheduled to be Sept. 20 against New England.
General manager John Schneider has acknowledged the possibility his Seahawks will not be playing in front of its formidable fan base that provides one of the NFL’s best home-field advantages.
“We would definitely miss our fans, no question,” Schneider said this spring. “No question.”
This creates a potential competitive imbalance in a league that has said that is a paramount issue in its start of training camps and the season amid the pandemic.
This week, the New York Jets and Giants told their fans they will not be permitted to attend games in 2020 “until further notice.”
It’s possible more restricted states such as Washington, California, New Jersey and New York will be prohibiting fans at games of seven teams (the Seahawks, 49ers, Chargers, Rams, Jets, Giants and Bills) — while more open states such as Georgia and Florida are allowing tens of thousands of fans at home games of the Falcons, Dolphins, Buccaneers and Jaguars.
The Seahawks are scheduled to play their second road games of the season at Miami Oct. 4.