Professional Sports With No Audience

It has been almost a year since quarantine started, and professional sports  have not been the same since. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, professional sports leagues have been able to compete but, they now lack the enthusiastic cheers of the audience in the stands. 

NBA, NFL, and NHL Professional Sports League Logos | Photo Courtesy: NY Post

Professional sports leagues like the NHL, NBA, and the NFL have played throughout the year without any sort of fan interaction. According to USA Today, Los Angeles Lakers starter, Lebron James, still struggles with the fact that there has not been any fan interaction at all last season and will be a limited luxury going into the 2021 season, as well.

LA Lakers starter Lebron James interacting with fans before COVID-19 | Photo Courtesy: Forbes

“It’ll never be something that’s comfortable, something I can be accustomed to or something that will feel regular,” James said. “When I first started playing organized sports, [fans] were there. It’s all a part of it. The fans are a part of this game.”

The NFL has been able to work through some restrictions and was able to make attendance very flexible. The 2021 Superbowl had a fully packed arena of 22,000 fans like a normal pre-COVID NFL game. The NFL worked to give the competing teams a full and real experience and took many safety measures to be able to give the teams an audience. 

According to Sporting News, “ Out of the 22,00 people let in, 7,500 were healthcare workers to keep COVID-19 guideines up to par,” Mark Medina, sports journalist said. 

The NHL started with a superseded season in 2020, but started to compete again in the “Bubble” similar to the NBA’s “Dome.” Like the NBA and NFL, the NHL had no audience or fans to watch in person either. According to sports website, The Athletic, Nashville Predators forward, Matt Duchene, felt extremely bewildered returning to the ice with no audience. 

“When I skated out there for Game 1, and there’s not a sound but your skates on the ice, it’s extremely bizarre,” Duchene said. “It’s has been tough for us. It’s really sucked.”

NFL 2021 Super Bowl Arena | Photo Courtesy: Independent CO UK

All professional sports leagues have been working to initiate a safe system for fans to be allowed to watch the competition and there has been lots of tak of limited fan attendance going into the 2021 seasons.

The NBA is about 50/50 when it comes to letting a limited number of fans inside the arenas to watch the NBA games in person. For the teams that agree to let people in, only 10% of the arena can be filled. 

There also has been speculation that the annual All-Star game that is supposed to take place in Atlanta for All- Star weekend, might not happen. According to CNBC, the players have been saying that the All-Star game is more for entertainment and will not be the same without any fans. 

“Giannis Antetokounmpo shares similar thoughts on the ASG {All-Star Game} as LeBron,  saying he has ‘zero energy’ and ‘zero excitement’ to play at this point. He would rather spend time with his family,” NBA reporter Eric Woodyard said.

The NFL is the most ahead in fan attendance as of right now. They have had more fans able to attend not only the 2021 Super Bowl, but some of the playoff games than the NBA and NHL combined in the past year. According to Behind The Steel Curtain, a sports blog, the NFL is still debating on whether it is safe to let fans attend games, but is leaning towards yes more so than no. 

“[…] it is looking good, but nothing is set in stone just yet,” Jeff Hartman, Sports journalist said.

One of the NHL’s “Bubble” Arenas in Toronto, Canada | Photo Courtesy: Online Gambling

The NHL is proud of how efficiently the “Bubble” all teams competed in worked out to be. The NHL is allowing a limited number of fans to attend games, but they are required to be seated and isolated in their own pods while watching. Half of the teams decided not to start the 2021 season off with letting fans attend games to see how the other 14 teams do with fan attendance. 

“The NHL has made it a priority to promote fan safety at team arenas and any potential Winter Classic or outdoor game during the upcoming regular season. Teams that will allow fans to catch a game to see their favorite hockey team play in person will have fans sitting in pods, which are socially-distanced and safe limited groups of fans that will only be sitting with the ones they came with,” according to TickPick, a sports blog. 

Overall, professional sports leagues are working hard to accommodate the desire for fans to be able to watch games in person while keeping the well-being and safety of the players in mind. Hopefully, the 2021 seasons for the professional sports leagues will be better than the last. 

Written by Kamara White

Senior, Kamara White, is the sports section editor for the MC SUN staff. She enjoys food, listening to music, watching Netflix, and sleeping. She plays club volleyball at WAVE and is on Varsity for MC.

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