With the 2020 campaign rapidly approaching and the country still in the midst of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple teams announced on Tuesday plans to begin the season without fans.
Hours after the Minnesota Vikings announced they will not play in front of fans for at least the first two games, the NFL's California-based franchises followed suit.
The Los Angeles Chargers and Rams released a joint statement confirming that spectators will not attend games at SoFi Stadium "until further notice." Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers said they will not have a crowd at their first game inside Levi's Stadium on Sept. 13. The Niners did not announce plans beyond that date; their next home game will be played on Oct. 4.
"While not being able to open SoFi Stadium with fans in attendance is heartbreaking, we are grateful for the opportunity to play NFL football this Fall," Dean Spanos, the Chargers owner and chairman of the board, said in a separate statement. "Even though progress in the fight against COVID-19 has been uneven, the teamwork it has taken to get to the point where we can safely play regular season games has been remarkably steadfast and consistent.
"We know our community, however, is still in the throes of a pandemic, and our only way out is to heed the guidance of state and local health officials and community leaders. Every decision we have made – and every decision we will make in the future – begins and ends with the health and safety of our community, players, coaches and staff in mind."
The 49ers also announced that all 2020 season ticket members have the option of crediting their payments to the 2021 season or receive a full refund. If fans are allowed back this season, season ticket members who credited their payments to next season will receive priority access to single-game tickets.
The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals later became the 19th and 20th teams to announce zero fan attendance. Buffalo is set to host the Jets and Rams on Sept. 13 and 27 while the Bengals plan to play without a home crowd against the Chargers during Kickoff Week. Cincy's next home game wouldn't be played until Oct. 4.
"Paul Brown Stadium will not be the same without our fans, but we hope everyone shares our excitement for the 2020 football season," said Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn in a statement. "The Bengals went through a busy offseason in free agency and the draft, and the roster promises to be fresh, talented and exciting. We value the support of our fans and will do our best to keep everyone up to date and connected with the team through our coverage on Bengals.com and across our social media accounts. We look forward to welcoming fans at Paul Brown Stadium when permitted by the State of Ohio."
All six franchises stated their intentions to continue to work with local and state officials regarding the possibility that fans will be able to attend games later this season.