The deal between the NFL and NFL Players Association that allowed the 2020 season to proceed prohibits players from attending professional sporting events (other than, you know, their own games), unless they’re in a separate seating section, like a suite or owner’s box, with no more than 10 people present. But that’s not keeping the league from preventing teams from having however many fans present that state and local laws will allow.
More and more teams can’t secure permission from state and local authorities to host fans for the early games of the season. This creates even more of a competitive imbalance for the teams that are able to have partial, or possibly in time full, capacity.
The reason for the imbalance is obvious; the league wants to minimize the financial losses from a season with no fans. For some reason, the league won’t just come out and say that.
Football is business. (They say “football is family,” because saying it is good for business.) And that’s OK. We can enjoy professional football while also acknowledging that football enjoys the money it makes from our enjoyment of it.
Here’s the real question. If, in the end, just a handful of teams ultimately have fans present for games, does the money that will be earned justify the competitive imbalance? The league already has decided that it will, that it does, no matter how great or small it may be. And the policy surely won’t be changing.
But that doesn’t mean coaches like Mike Zimmer of the Vikings and Sean McDermott of the Bills have to like it. And it doesn’t mean they have to keep their disdain for this policy to themselves.
Unless and until the league issues a memo telling coaches, General Managers, owners, and other executives that any complaints about the inherent competitive imbalance resulting from some teams having fans and others having none will result in a fine or other discipline, coaches, General Managers, owners, and other executives should be willing to point out that a season that may have unavoidable competitive imbalances due to the pandemic is getting started with an avoidable one.