Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank is putting an optimistic face on the questionable 2020 football season by saying he thinks there will be football this fall, with or without fans.
In a Friday piece at NFL.com, Blank said he is expecting a full NFL season regardless of the Wuhan virus outbreak that has put such a crimp in every other sport.
“I think that we will. That’s my personal view,” Blank said when asked if there will be a 2020 season after all.
“I’m not a physician, I’m not a scientist and what have you, but I read and follow everything else,” the NFL owner continued. “I know that it’s important, I think regardless of the sport — the sport’s important for lots of people for lots of reasons, not just the economics of it but to bring people together in a sense of community, sense of togetherness, et cetera, and a sense of purpose that they can join in together with. So, I think there will be football.”
But that togetherness may not include gathering at stadiums.
“Whether or not all the games will be played with fans in the stands, I’m not sure. I know the league would certainly prefer to do that, so will virtually every other sport throughout the world,” Blank added. “Whether or not that will be possible and provide a safe environment for our fans and our players and coaches and staff, et cetera, is still a question mark.”
Still, Blank noted that the NFL would need to do some outreach to get fans used to the idea of a TV-only season.
“I think in the case of the NFL, so much of the product is absorbed by television, by media in different forms and formats, that even if we had to play some games without fans in the stands — it’s not preferable, it’s not what our fans want, it’s not what our players want, it’s not what anybody wants — but we could do it,” Blank said. “I think so much focus is on the field itself and on the game itself that I think it would still be very acceptable and would be a great distraction for our fans.”
Blank also hinted that the league is looking at ways to assure fans that their health will be safeguarded at the stadiums if they do play with fans in the stands.
“The concern the fans have about their own safety, we have to be able to relieve that, and to create a safe environment for them,” he insisted. “I think there’s ways to do that. We’re not at that point now, but I think that’s where we’re headed. Whether we’ll get there for the first game of the year, I don’t know, but I think the league would like to do that, certainly.”
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