written on behalf of Feigenbaum Law
As Autumn gets underway, it signifies a return to most professional sports. The NFL had its season kickoff yesterday, and the NHL and NBA will be back up and running in October. Of course, college football kicked off last week and Major League Baseball is nearing the conclusion of the 2021 season. Last year saw a huge shift in how professional sports are played and viewed, with many leagues operating without fans, and athletes/staff being subject to various testing protocols. We wanted to take some time this week to update our readers on how the landscape looks for both players and fans, as professional sports leagues attempt to make back income lost due to COVID-19.
NFL is back with full stadiums
The NFL kicked off its 2021-22 season last night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their championship defense against the Dallas Cowboys. The game was held with a full stadium as 65,000 fans took in the game. In fact, all 30 NFL stadiums will be operating at full capacity as the season continues its kickoff over the weekend.
However, each team has enacted its own COVID-19 protocols as cases of the Delta variant continue to climb. As of right now, only three teams have announced that fans entering the stadium must be fully vaccinated. These teams are the Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders, and New Orleans Saints (the Seahawks and Saints will also accept a negative COVID test less than 72 hours old). At this time, it is not known whether other teams will follow suit.
As for players, those who have not received vaccinations are being tested daily and must follow safety protocols. Cases amongst players who are unvaccinated are on the rise, with the Dallas Cowboys alone having nine players test positive since training camp opened. It was reported in The Athletic that 93.5% of all NFL players are vaccinated, with no team falling below the 80% threshold.
NHL rolls out COVID-19 protocols
Similar to the NFL, the NHL is not requiring all players to be vaccinated. However, if players choose not to receive the vaccine, they will be limited in where they are allowed to go while on the road. Unvaccinated players may only go to their hotel and practice facilities/arenas. They will also be expected to undergo daily COVID-19 testing. Players who are not vaccinated and contract COVID-19 can be suspended and docked pay for each day they miss.
As for fans, five teams have announced they will require vaccinations, with those teams being the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets. Sports Travel Magazine has also reported that some teams, such as the Montreal Canadians, will be limiting the number of fans allowed into the stadium.
NBA will not mandate testing
Sports Illustrated reported this week that the NBA will not introduce mandatory testing on fully-vaccinated players during the 2021-22 season. However, unvaccinated players will be subject to a seven-day quarantine period if they come into contact with someone who tests positive. In addition, unvaccinated players will be required to wear masks when not on the court.
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