The NFL has not instituted a league-wide attendance policy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that still plagues the nation. As a result, 23 teams will not have fans in the stadium for at least the season opener this year. The Dallas Cowboys are not one of them. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed he was given the go-ahead by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to have fans at Cowboys Stadium for the season opener and beyond. How many fans the Cowboys will have for their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons is still to be determined.
Some believe the lack of a universal attendance policy across the league creates home-field advantages for teams whose states are allowing attendance this season. Jones doesn't see an issue with some teams being granted permission to have fans while others won't have them for their home opener (at the very least). Perhaps not coincidentally, the Cowboys are the only team in the NFC East that will allow fans in their home stadium in 2020.
"Absolutely (it's fair). The benefit of crowds are important to sports," Jones said Tuesday, via 105.3 The Fan. "On the other hand, is it possible to have great games without it. But it's fair. We've made up our minds this thing isn't going to be one way or another. Surely, about evening up everything that could be competitive, you've got to have to adapt to the virus. Attendance being one of them.
"To the end that we can get fans enjoying these games with an experience similar to the thing they've come accustomed (to) is a big step in the right direction."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Texas has the third-most coronavirus cases in the United States at 580,384 and its 37,434 cases over the last seven days are second-most in the country (per the CDC). The 2,022 case rate per 100,000 for the state of Texas is the 11th-highest in the United States.
The lack of a league-wide attendance policy has irked Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott, as the other professional sports leagues have followed this practice. Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are playing games at home stadiums with no fans in attendance, while the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League are playing their postseasons in a bubble/hub city.
"We control what we can control. I think it's honestly ridiculous that there will be ... what appears to be a playing field that is like that," McDermott said. "Inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums. We control what we can control. That's gotta be our mindset and that's how we attack it."
Until the NFL adopts an attendance policy, that's all teams can do. Some franchises will have fans at games while others won't have any at all. The Cowboys want to be at the forefront of bringing fans back to the stadium, whether it's risky or not.
"We all know the importance of leading the way," Jones said. "We have the ability to lead the way to a more normal type of activity whether it be economic or whether it be social. This is a great opportunity to do that in a very safe way. We're very unique in our stadium relative to just space and we're going to take advantage of it."