Panthers Join Most N.F.L. Teams in Not Allowing Fans to Start Season

Panthers Join Most N.F.L. Teams in Not Allowing Fans to Start Season

When the Carolina Panthers play their home opener at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday, there won’t be any fans in the stands. The team announced their decision Aug. 31. Despite “being “confident that [they] can safety host a limited number of fans,” the Panthers indicated that they would “continue reaching out to government officials regarding options for future games.”

Panthers statement COVID-19
Photo Courtesy of @CarolinaPanthers Facebook

Carolina Panthers fans are undoubtedly disappointed by the news. And many of them might be asking whether they’d be better off somewhere else. It’s true, after all, that some teams will have fans in the stands come Week 1. But the Panthers’ fan-free policy is much in line with most of the NFL.

The Panthers join most other NFL teams in deciding against having fans to start the 2020-2021 season.

According to ESPN, the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Pittsburg Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Football Team won’t have fans in the stands for their first home games either.

The Philadelphia Eagles are likely in the same boat, but they have described their decision as “a fluid situation.” Counting the Eagles and Panthers, that’s 25 of the league’s 32 teams that won’t have fans in the stands to start their seasons.

The Indianapolis Colts announced they’ll have a maximum of 2,500 fans. And, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns haven’t announced a specific number of fans yet, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently announced a maximum of 6,000 for their home openers.

These developments leave just four NFL teams—the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Kansas City Chiefs—who will have more than 10,000 fans in their stadiums when the season starts on Sept. 10.

Each state makes its own decision about fans, but the consequences of those decisions could spread quickly.

So what do the Colts, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Chiefs know that the Panthers don’t? Frankly, it’s hard to say. North Carolina reports just less than 3,000 COVID-related deaths. Indiana? Approximately 3,500. Ohio? More than 4,000. Florida? Even worse: almost 12,000. (Missouri is a bit of an outlier, with less than 2,000 COVID deaths. It’s worth noting, though, that Missouri has a significantly lower population than the other states.)

These obviously aren’t perfect comparisons. But it showcases the somewhat inexplicable state-by-state decision-making as COVID continues to spread throughout the country.

Image by wgbieber from Pixabay

Unfortunately, while each state’s decision-making process is different, the consequences of those decisions aren’t limited to those states. Rather, we feel those consequences all over the country. Take a recent motorcycle event in South Dakota.

Government officials continue to trace nationwide COVID cases to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a mid-August event in South Dakota. In fact, at least 12 states report COVID traced back to the event. Hopefully we won’t be saying the same about NFL games after this week.