Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March that he expects the NFL to have full capacity for the upcoming season. And now, teams are informing their fans that will likely be the case.
The Baltimore Ravens sent a letter to fans Tuesday that they are “optimistic” they will be able to host a fully packed crowd at M&T Bank Stadium in the fall — while abiding by “necessary and expected protocols,” team president Dick Cass wrote.
The Washington Football Team is also expected to address the situation shortly, but the team has yet to comment on their plans. The Ravens and Washington both play in Maryland — where Gov. Larry Hogan has relaxed coronavirus restrictions as the state’s virus cases decrease.
Hogan said in a press conference this week he hopes to “get things back to normal” by Memorial Day.
“We look forward to working closely with the Ravens to get fans back to M&T at full capacity in the fall,” Hogan wrote on Twitter, sharing the Ravens’ letter. “This is another sign of the progress we’re making to get back to normal.”
Cass said in the letter that the team has confidence it can host bigger crowds because of the “many successful and safe outdoor events taking place throughout the country. “ This year’s Super Bowl hosted 25,000 fans, while half of Major League Baseball clubs are allowing crowds in the tens of thousands.
“These trends are encouraging and give us confidence in our preparation,” Cass wrote.
In the District, the Washington Nationals began the season with a limited capacity of 5,000 fans, but city officials have since allowed an increased capacity of 10,000 — roughly 25% of the team’s limit. The permitted crowd size is smaller for indoor events as the Capitals and Wizards are only allowed to have 2,100.
The NFL has not said if it will require fans to be fully vaccinated in order to attend games. Last month, the Buffalo Bills announced that fans must show proof of vaccination to get into Ralph Wilson Stadium this fall. The league also required fans sitting near the main stage of this past week’s NFL draft to be vaccinated.
So far, teams and sports leagues have offered incentives for fans to get vaccinated. In MLB, the New York Yankees and Mets are offering a free ticket to those who get vaccinated at their ballparks’ vaccination sites. The Cincinnati Reds are selling tickets for just $10 to fans who show their COVID-19 vaccination card. The NFL announced Wednesday that vaccinated individuals can enter a sweepstakes to get tickets for next year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles. The league is also offering a 25% discount for online merchandise for vaccinated people.
According to the CDC, more than half of adults in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of that, a third are fully vaccinated.
“We will continue to work diligently with state and local agencies to prepare to host fans safely,” Cass said. “To achieve our goal of a full stadium, we encourage everyone in our community to get vaccinated and continue following the best practices recommended by public health authorities.”
The Ravens, like other teams, have hosted a vaccination site at their stadiums. According to the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team, the NFL has offered vaccines at 21 stadiums — administering 3 million doses.
The NFL’s goal of getting back to full stadiums will also depend on local and state restrictions. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the Yankees and Mets can have 100% capacity starting May 19 — but only if the attendees are fully vaccinated.
Cuomo added that there will be different sections based on vaccination status. Fully vaccinated people won’t have to observe social distancing, while those without the vaccine must sit six feet apart in sections with one-third capacity.
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