Earlier today, Brett covered the news of Illinois entering Phase 4 of its re-opening, including a nugget regarding a limited number of fans being in the stands as part of this phase.
Under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s revised guidelines, “outdoor spectator sports” can open their doors to fans — but with no more than 20 percent of seating capacity. So if the NFL was to get the green light to start its season as planned, and with fans in the stands under the guidelines of Phase 4, that would mean Soldier Field would be limited to 12,000 people in the seats.
But when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asked what the state’s move to Phase 4 meant for professional sports, Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman shared this response:
Mayor asked what Phase 4 means to pro sports, if they come back. Lightfoot says she's in constant conversation with teams. A lot of that will be dictated by league offices and unions. She expects them to reopen short term without fans and that, over time, some fans will be there.
— Fran Spielman (@fspielman) June 22, 2020
Reading that “over time, fans will be there” feels re-assuring that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and some semblance of normalcy will come when the NFL season rolls around. That this comes a week after Bears CEO Ted Phillips expressed hope and optimism that the team would be able to host games with fans when the NFL schedule opens up is encouraging, too. By no means, is anyone out of the woods yet when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic or returning to things as they were. But signs of progress should be acknowledged. Perhaps more positive news will continue to roll in as time goes on and positive updates continue to come in on a regular basis.
But here’s the thing: There is a chunk of the sports calendar that isn’t opening up any time soon. Which means there isn’t much from which the NFL can learn regarding opening up with fans in the stands right now. And frankly, I’m unsure of what will be learned between now and when the league opens up shop. Because even though the NFL’s offseason has played out as scheduled – save for some notable tweaks to the draft, free agency process, and virtual offseason training activities – it would be beneficial to see how MLB, the NBA, NHL, MLS, NWSL, NASCAR, and any other sports league goes about business with a limited number of fans in the stands before it opens its doors.
This is still a wait and see situation, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what develops.