BOSTON (CBS) — On Tuesday, the Patriots announced that their stadium will be empty through at least September. With the coronavirus pandemic still a reality throughout much of America, they are far from alone in that regard.
The NFL finally seems ready to accept this as reality, as league is reportedly looking to help offset the eeriness of empty stadiums by allowing crowd noise to be played during games this fall. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the league is considering such a policy.
Sources: NFL is now considering a league-wide policy that would enable fan sound to be heard in stadiums.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 19, 2020
Obviously, whether it’s been unconfirmed rumors about the now-defunct RCA Dome in Indianapolis or confirmed cases in Atlanta’s now-defunct Georgia Dome, the pumping in of artificial crowd noise has been a sensitive subject with the NFL for years.
Yet with the advantage of having been able to sit back and watch how the NHL, NBA and MLB went about their games without fans in attendance, the NFL had the benefit to wait to make a decision like this until the league got a clearer picture of allowable attendance — or lack thereof — around the league this season.
The Patriots figure to be uniquely affected by the potential lack of attendance this season, as they have road games scheduled in Kansas City and in Seattle — two of the very loudest stadiums on earth. The Seattle game is scheduled for Week 2, and the Seahawks have not made any announcements yet on fans. (UPDATE: The Seahawks won’t have fans for at least their first three home games.) The Kansas City is scheduled for Week 4, and the Chiefs are planning on allowing about 20 percent of the normal capacity of fans into the stadium.
With some municipalities banning fans and others allowing low capacities, the implementation of artificial noise could help even out the difference in home-field advantage.
In what is another unique twist for the 2020 NFL season, there will also be no cheerleaders or mascots on the field.
Cheerleaders and mascots will not be allowed on the field during the 2020 season, according to updated NFL-NFLPA protocols sent to clubs.
Yet another way the NFL will look different in the COVID-19 world.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 19, 2020
As for the fake crowd noise, the NFL would have to work out details, such as whether teams with 20 percent capacity of their stands filled with fans can still pipe it in, and how loud that crowd noise can be, and when it can and cannot be played.
But it seems as though the experiments across other professional sports have given the NFL a certain comfort level with the implementation of some artificial noise to help make football seem slightly more like normal football.