NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Tuesday that the league expects to have full stadiums in the fall after many stadiums in 2020 were empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ESPN, Goodell said, “All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back. Football is simply not the same without fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the upcoming season." The decision to play in front of full stadiums ultimately will come down to state and local regulations.
Thirteen of the league’s 32 teams had no fans at all for regular season contests in 2020. Only three teams had attendance above 20% of capacity, with no team averaging more than 30% of capacity for home games.
In stadiums of 60,000 and 70,000, having crowds of 3,000 or 4,000 became the norm as many states and municipalities placed limits on mass gatherings during the height of the pandemic. Many states still have some restrictions on full capacity, but unlike in the fall, most states are permitting at least partial capacity in outdoor stadiums.
As MLB resumes play this week, only one team, the Texas Rangers, is expected to have a crowd at full capacity on Opening Day. Most of the rest of the league will open stadiums to about 20 to 30% capacity.
While many states continue to placed restrictions on mass gatherings, more Americans are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus every day. Despite increased vaccinations, cases have started to increase again in recent weeks as states and the public have let up their guard against the virus.