It’s becoming increasingly less and less likely that any team in the NFL this season is going to be playing in front of a packed stadium, which can be more disadvantageous for some teams than others if they have a particularly loud and supportive fanbase that provides them with a tangible ‘homefield advantage’.
Of course, there isn’t really anything that anybody can do about it at this point. It would be patently unsafe to try to stuff 60,000 people into a sports arena right now, and the NFL is not going to burden itself with the potential for lawsuits that could be filed for negligence, even if they have fans sign waivers.
The possibility also exists that there won’t be any fans at all, at least in some places, at some times. The Pittsburgh Steelers tend to have a solid enough crowd, even if they might not rank at the very top of the list compared to places like Seattle and Kansas City, but they have a better presence on the road than any other team in the country as well.
While on The Fan yesterday, T.J. Watt was asked about the potential for playing games in front of empty seats and what that might be like for the players. “I briefly thought about it, but not too much”, he said. “I’m just getting prepared to play football and it doesn’t matter if there are fans in the stands or if they’re not”.
“Obviously it’s going to be an adjustment period for all of us”, the fourth-year linebacker continued. “I would love to have fans there, but if they’re not there because of safety, safety always comes first when it comes to the players and the fans. We’re just gonna have to adjust and adapt and play as best as we possibly can with the circumstances that we’re dealt”.
The players have no control over whether or not there will be fans, so regardless of the circumstances, they can’t let it affect them. Still, the topic of what teams will be allowed to do in the event that there are no fans is a discussion that needs to be had.
Will they be permitted to pump in artificial crowd noise, for example, and how would its usage be regulated? That seems like something that could be abused easily. Could they play music during plays? Renegade on an endless loop?