At NFL games this fall, officials on the field won’t be the only ones keeping an eye on face masks, as the league announced a universal policy requiring face coverings for all in attendance this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. While individual franchises and local authorities will decide how many people are allowed in the buildings, the league is making it mandatory for fans in the stands to wear a face covering, rather than leading it up to teams and cities.

The announcement is the latest update in the continual evolution of safety plans and protocols for the upcoming 2020 season. Teams are largely adopting fully mobile ticketing systems – no doubt to the delight of those working in data acquisition for ticketing vendors and other partners with access to that treasure trove. Contactless payments are also increasingly standard, as are social distancing protocols and hand sanitizers at numerous points of the gameday experience.

Almost all teams have announced some kind of plan related to having a reduced capacity for fans in the stands. The New Jersey-based Jets and Giants will begin the year with no fans attending due to a refusal by Gov. Phil Murphy to exempt them from a cap of 500 at all outdoor events. Many other franchises have wiped their seating charts clean and are expecting that they will sell tickets to season ticket members on a priority basis, with non-members unlikely to have a chance at seeing any games in person save through secondary ticketing providers.

Mandated league-wide, face coverings at all NFL contests with fans in attendance is the latest, and will reportedly only be allowed to be removed when fans are eating or drinking at the stadium – they will be worn at all other times, even in the seating areas.

As mask compliance has somehow become a partisan issue in the United States, the reaction to the announcement has been decidedly mixed. In response to NFL PR head Brian McCarthy’s tweet announcing the policy, a mix of approval and promises to not attend games if masks are required permeated the conversation.

nfl face mask

There was a mix of humor as well…

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Regardless of reaction, fans are bracing for a dramatically different fall of football action, with just over six weeks to go before the scheduled opener in September.

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