Back in mid-February, Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said he was hopeful that COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and distributions would allow the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for Aug. 5 to be played inside a full stadium. Since that time, clubs such as the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots have notified season-ticket holders of intentions to fill stadiums to capacities starting in September.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell echoed such optimism when he said on Tuesday that the league expects to “welcome back fans across the country at all NFL stadiums,” per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
“All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” Goodell said. “Football is simply not the same without the fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the 2021 season.”
NFL revenue dropped from $16 billion in 2019 to $12 billion in 2020 largely because teams couldn’t fill stadiums throughout the pandemic-altered campaign, so it’s logical Goodell and league owners would plan for sellouts until they’re told otherwise. It’s worth noting, however, that local governments and health officials, not owners, will have the final calls on how many fans will be permitted to attend contests starting with the Hall of Fame Game and other preseason matchups in August.