Saturday night’s boxing match at AT&T Stadium — attended by a pandemic record of 73,126 — is a sign of things to come when that venue once again hosts football games. Undoubtedly, the Dallas Cowboys will be playing before a full house this season.
Other NFL teams in other NFL cities in other NFL states will also have no limits on attendance when September rolls around, with the three venues in Florida certain to have no restrictions, either. Other teams will likely get similar clearance to throw the doors open, regardless of the status of the pandemic.
At the same time, other state and local governments could be reluctant to give a blank check to NFL teams who want to fill their stadiums. Will the three teams located in California be allowed to welcome full houses? How about the two teams in New Jersey? The team in New York? In Massachusetts? In Michigan? In Minnesota?
Politics continue to influence these decisions. That could, depending on the next four months, result in some teams having 100 percent capacity, others having less, and still others have far less.
That’s not ideal for the NFL. Although Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested last year (twice) that there’s no competitive advantage to having fans present, no one actually believes that (including Goodell, presumably). Depending on how things shake out this year, it won’t be a matter of 10 percent versus none; the difference could be as stark as the din of a packed venue in one town and crickets in another.
The clock is ticking. The pandemic is improving. It would be improving even faster if more people would get vaccinated. Will it improve enough by September for all teams to roll out the red carpet for green dollars and loud noises?
That remains to be seen. For now, there’s a chance that some teams will have a very real home-field advantage in 2021, and that some won’t.