Following the unprecedented success of the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida, the professional sports world has since turned its attention to how the NFL is handling it's live matches during the pandemic.
Unlike the NBA’s move to an effectively controlled facility of play, the NFL’s operations have not been adapted to fit our drastically new normal.
This poor planning has already backfired only a month and a half into the season. Teams across the country — most recently including the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots — have been forced to suspend operations after COVID-19 outbreaks affecting players.
As the NFL’s unchanged internal operations begin to show cracks in its foundation, crowd attendance is a different story.
Regulations within host cities, including New Orleans, are responsible for capacity limitations in stadiums. At the forefront of pushback against a return to live football audiences in New Orleans is Mayor LaToya Cantrell. According to Mayor Cantrell, “there is not an indoor stadium in America that is having a large number of fans in the stands right now, and for good reason.”
Approaching the sixth week of play, many teams, like the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, have begun hosting limited capacities in their home stadiums. In New Orleans, however, Mayor Cantrell’s policies restrict the Saints from following suit.
Many fans and officials believe this is unfairly holding back the Saints' football season, as phase three regulations in the state technically allow for venues like sports arenas to open at an abridged capacity.
Searching for a venue where they could host a limited audience, the Saints set their sights up the Mississippi River, to Baton Rouge’s own Tiger Stadium.
As early as Oct. 13, reports came out that Death Valley would once again become the Saints' temporary home, having previously hosted a 2005 team for three games following Hurricane Katrina.
"LSU has been gracious and enthusiastic regarding hosting our future games, and we very much appreciate their partnership," Saints official Greg Bensel said of the potential of a season in Baton Rouge.
Cantrell even gave her support for the move, saying Death Valley, “could be a great place temporarily. It is an outdoor stadium, and they're allowing fans in the stadium.”
As important as it is to have fans in attendance during football games, especially in Louisiana, hosting the Saints will only bring another outbreak to the Baton Rouge area. Our University is already struggling with handling the coronavirus around campus; it does not need a new influx of fans and players.
Instead of allowing the black and gold to march into Baton Rouge, Cantrell needs to have active conversations with Saints management to allow the stadium to open up at a limited capacity like other NFL teams have.
Besides potentially exposing the Baton Rouge community to new cases from New Orleans, the move would also set a dangerous precedent for cities like New York, which are currently unable to host live sports.
Sports organizations across the country would see New Orleans’ move to Baton Rouge as reason to move their operations into nearby colleges—even into other cities or states entirely.
Our nation, whether we like it or not, is returning to a sense of normalcy. But if pro sports organizations want to maintain their new normal, they have to be proactive and make sure they don't encourage fans to spread the virus to other communities.
If the Saints want to welcome their fans back, it is better they do so under the roof of the Superdome than on our purple and gold field.
Domenic Purdy is a 19-year-old journalism sophomore from Prairieville.