Amid a worsening nationwide COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey’s biggest football teams – the New York Jets, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and New York Giants – said Monday they will not allow fans into their stadiums for home games once the 2020 football season starts in just a few weeks.
All three teams said Monday that the outdoor crowd limits of 500 people set by the state applied to their stadiums, meaning spectators can’t come in for home games.
New Jersey has two main stadiums: The 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium where the Jets and Giants are headquartered, and the nearly 53,0000-seat SHI Stadium, which houses the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team.
“In accordance with the governor’s executive order, which limits outdoor gatherings to 500 people, the 2020 Rutgers football season will proceed with no fans in attendance,” reads a post from Rutgers Athletics.
“All safety precautions will be in place for those individuals who will be in attendance,” adds the Rutgers Athletics website.
With the 500-person limit in stadiums, “you’re going to have a very limited ability to have folks in the stands,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in the July 20 episode of the Scarlet Spotlight podcast.
“We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety,” reads the joint Jets-Giants statement. “This decision was reached after careful consideration of the current state of the COVID-19 crisis … and in consideration of the health and safety of our fans, players and staff, which will continue to be the primary focus of our teams.”
But the governor said Monday he’ll sign an order allowing “contact drills and practices and competitions to resume today for high-risk sports,” at “outdoor venues only,” with a variety of health and safety protocols.
“The hope would be that there would be a very explicit testing regimen,” Murphy said. “If there was some amount of positive activity,” then teams would take action “somewhere between the individuals wouldn’t even get on the plane,” or a case in “where you got whole teams that say ‘you know what, we’re just not going to make the trip’.”
Still, the NCAA warned in its new guidelines that because of the nationwide increase, “it is possible that sports, especially high contact risk sports, may not be practiced safely in some areas.”
“In conjunction with public health officials, schools should consider pausing or discontinuing athletics activities when local circumstances warrant such consideration,” the guidelines continued.
In New Jersey, the spread of the virus has slowly crept up, occasionally popping above a transmission rate of 1, which means that for every one person who gets COVID-19, they spread it to at least one other person. To some extent that was expected, but the resurgence of the virus across the nation that has driven the COVID-19 rebound and could jeopardize the reopening was not, Murphy said.