If you want to attend an NFL game in 2020, you're going to wear a mask. That's the new mandate issued by the league as it works to finalize COVID-19 protocols ahead of training camp -- announced by the league's front office on Wednesday -- as players take to social media in a hyper-vigilant effort to bring attention to unresolved safety concerns. The requirement will be enforced league-wide and supercedes lack of a local lawful mandate. In other words, even if your local jurisdiction doesn't require you to wear a mask, the NFL will enforce their right to turn you away at the door if you attempt to enter a stadium without one.
This will inevitably bring the league one step closer to reaching common ground with the NFLPA on the matter of safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, as players threaten to sit out the season if their concerns remained unaddressed.
This doesn't mean every NFL team will be allowed to have fans in the stands, as evidenced by both the New York Giants and New York Jets having announced a ban on fans at MetLife Stadium until 2021. This came immediately after New Jersey governor Phil Murphy set a statewide limit of 500 persons for any and all large events -- including NFL games. In a joint statement issued by both the Giants and Jets, the two teams agreed with Murphy's decision, having been in communication regarding the verdict before it was handed down.
Several teams will allow the presence of fans, however, albeit in a greatly diminished capacity. The Atlanta Falcons, as one example, announced they'll allow between 10,000-20,000 fans into Mercedes-Benz Stadium this fall, noting their decision "is in keeping with state and local requirements, as well as the NFL and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing guidelines".
For perspective, the Falcons can hold more than 70,000 fans on any given game day.
Such a reduction in capacity will aid in maintaining social distancing measures, and the league's requirement that fans wear masks will provide the added protection players and NFL staff are hoping for. It's unclear, in the end, how many teams will host fans in 2020, but what is clear is that any fan hoping to be present to cheer on their home team will have to do so while wearing a face covering.