The 2020 NFL season, which started just six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, saw many empty seats as restrictions were in place to limit how many people could gather at an event. While some teams were able to host some percentage of fans, others were not.
But it appears that’s going to change this fall. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in March that the league expects all stadiums to have full capacity for the 2021 season. But with the pandemic still ongoing, VERIFY viewer Ralph W. had a question about potentially attending games.
Ralph asked: Will any NFL team require fans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend games this upcoming season?
No, NFL teams aren’t currently requiring fans to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
WHAT WE FOUND
The NFL’s game ticket policy for the 2021 season makes no mention that fans must be vaccinated. Under the policy, there’s a “fan health promise” that lists situations in which people should not attend games.
Fans, regardless of their vaccination status, should not attend a game if they test positive for COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to the game.
There are a few more stipulations for fans who are unvaccinated. They should not attend a game if:
- In the 14 days before the game, they are exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or are subject to a federal or local travel or quarantine advisory due to COVID-19.
- If in the 48 hours before the game, they experience symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, shortness of breath, chills, or any other symptoms identified by the CDC.
People who are fully vaccinated but experience COVID-19 symptoms in the 48 hours leading up to the game should consult a health care provider and get tested for the virus before attending, the NFL says.
But those guidelines stop well short of banning fans who are unvaccinated from attending games. VERIFY reached out to the NFL about how the league plans to enforce its policy but has not heard back.
The NFL’s ticket policy also says fans must follow the ticket terms of the team hosting the game. A review by VERIFY of the ticket terms for each of the 32 NFL teams showed no team requires fans to be vaccinated as a condition of purchasing a ticket. The conditions of the tickets are subject to change, though. You can find a link to your team’s ticket policy here.
During the spring of 2021, it looked like fans may be required to be vaccinated to attend Buffalo Bills games. In April, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said fans would have to be vaccinated to attend Bills games at Highmark Stadium, which Erie County owns. But in June, Poloncarz said the county was rescinding the vaccination requirement, although he noted that could change in the future “if circumstances warrant.”
The Bills have since said vaccinated and unvaccinated fans are welcome to home games this upcoming season.
So, up to this point, no NFL teams have said they’ll require fans to be vaccinated when regular-season games kick off in September.
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