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Tiki and Tierney: Will the presence of fans give NFL teams a competitive advantage?
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The NFL regular season is a little over a week away, and games will look a lot different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the upcoming season, their plan for the pandemic and addressing social justice issues on a conference call on Tuesday. Goodell confirmed that this season, the league will have the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” painted in the end zones.

“The NFL stands with the Black community, the players, clubs and fans confronting systemic racism,” Goodell said. “We will not relent in our work.”

Goodell has recently said that he was wrong for his previous approach on players protesting and now says he respects their decision should they choose to peacefully protest during the games.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent echoed this position saying, “They all have that choice and that individual right to sit out and protest.”

Goodell also discussed one of the major differences in this season, which is a lack of fans at most stadiums. While some teams are allowing a limited number of fans at games from the start, most have either made the decision to not have fans at all this season, or at least not in September.

Many are wondering if the lack of overarching policy from the league will cause a disparity in competition, with some teams having a home field advantage.

Goodell says the league does not think there’s any advantage between those welcoming in fans and those who are not able to, either by choice or local regulations. 

“We do not believe it’s a competitive advantage. We discussed it very early on with our Competition Committee and with our clubs. We do not see that,” he said. 

“We obviously have varying capacities across the league, and from our standpoint, we want to invite our fans in if we can do it safely and we can do it with the full support of local officials. We think our fans want to come the stadium.”

He also brought up the lingering question of safety and their expectation of finishing the season. 

“We’re looking to start and complete the season on time,” Goodell said. “We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to complete the season. We will remain vigilant and adapt to circumstances as needed.”

He says while he believes the minimal positive COVID-19 cases show what they’re doing is working, he wants to make sure the league does not “get comfortable.”

He admits there’s still a lot of uncertainty. 

“We’re not patting ourselves on the back yet,” he said. “It will not be easy, and it will be different. But we are prepared.”

The season kicks off on Thursday, September 10 with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texas. 

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