The NFL released its 2020 schedule on Thursday, which came with a massive asterisk due to the uncertainty surrounding live sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will tentatively kick off the season on Thursday, Sept. 10, against the Houston Texans. Other games of note include the unveiling of the new, glitzy SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles (well, Inglewood), which will play host to the Rams and the Chargers. The Rams get the inaugural game, where they will host the Dallas Cowboys in the first “Sunday Night Football” matchup on Sept. 13.
The newly-christened Las Vegas Raiders will begin their tenure in Sin City against the Carolina Panthers, with their first home game in their new city set for “Monday Night Football” on Sept. 21. Tom Brady’s first game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer will come against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, with his homecoming a week later against the Panthers.
But the question hanging over the schedule is just how many, if any, games will actually be played. And if they are played, will spectators be allowed to watch?
U.S. sports have all been benched since mid-March given the spread of COVID-19, which has shuttered every major gathering of people for the foreseeable future. March Madness was canceled and the MLB and NHL suspended their seasons. It’s uncertain when, or if, any of those leagues will be able to resume play.
But the NFL, which is in the middle of its offseason, has gone ahead business as usual. Free agency and the draft were held, though the draft was done virtually, with picks being announced from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement. The league canceled its planned international games this year, unsure of when global travel will be safe (the United Kingdom, where the NFL had scheduled three games this season, has been hit pretty hard by the virus).
Some sports, like NASCAR and UFC, are attempting to resume operations, albeit without fans in attendance. Around the world, South Korea’s KBO League began its season this week, and Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league received clearance to return to the field on May 15. Both are in front of empty stadiums.