Published 8:57 PM EDT May 15, 2020
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of the future in all aspects of life let alone football, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters Friday that he’s hopeful the NFL season can still happen in 2020.
“I think sports is something that has always brought people together and as you see with networks like ESPN, people are starving for anything whether it’s the Michael Jordan documentary or watching the Korean Baseball league on TV or the UFC coming back with no fans,” Rodgers said. “I think people are definitely looking for something to bring us together.”
Rodgers returned in a frenzy from Peru in late March prior to the airport closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, he said he’s joined the nation in “buying into the idea of quarantine to flatten the curve” and minimize the rate of infection.
He also acknowledged some public questioning of stay-at-home orders, likening quarantine to “house arrest to find a cure with people wondering what exactly that means as far as the future of the country and the freedoms we’re allowed to have at this point.”
Despite his desire to play football this season, Rodgers emphasized that the country’s unemployment levels and the mental health of the collective population should be at the forefront of societal concern. He pointed to the fact that over the past eight weeks, national unemployment surged to encompass more than 36 million Americans. Additionally, he acknowledged that suicide hotlines have also faced growing demand amid the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of problems going on in the country right now associated with the fear around this pandemic,” Rodgers said. “I hope that we can use some common sense moving forward and make decisions that are in the best interest of all people moving forward, and I hope that sports is a part of that at some point.”
If and when the NFL season starts, fans may not be in attendance. Last week, director of the National Institutes for Health Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Sports’ Peter King that it’s possible that players who test negative for the coronavirus could play in an empty stadium. He also stated that if the virus’ infection rate is so low that the general community risk is low, he could see the NFL filling a third of stadiums so fans can distance themselves 6 feet apart.
When considering what a football season could look like in 2020, Rodgers admitted that he hasn’t allowed himself to envision what a stadium without fans would feel like.
“I know there’s been a lot of conversation about it,” Rodgers said. “It would definitely be a weird situation to not have any fans in the stands and I hope that’s not the reality.”
However, before the NFL evaluates whether or not stadiums will be filled when football begins, league officials decided when and how to open club facilities. According to a memo from the NFL to owners and presidents obtained by NFL Network, clubs may reopen their facilities on May 19 as long as they are permitted to do so under local regulations. No coaches are allowed.
Only players undergoing rehab and treatment can enter the facility. A maximum of 50% of staff members, up to 75 people, can be present in the building.
On Friday, Brown County health officer Anna Destree rescinded the local stay-at-home order following the state Supreme Court’s decision to throw out Gov. Tony Evers administration’s restrictions on Wednesday. Now, Brown County residents and businesses, including the Packers, do not need to follow a local safer-at-home order. Now, Brown County residents and businesses, including the Packers, do not need to follow a local safer-at-home order.
The league’s decision to allow clubs to reopen so long as they comply with local regulation was announced after Packers head coach Matt LaFleur’s press conference with the media. However, he said that leaving the decision on reopening club facilities to local authorities would be unfair to clubs in cities that have stay-at-home orders still in place.
“I do think there’s a competitive advantage if some teams are allowed to go in and others aren’t,” LaFleur said.
The Packers sent out a release Friday night saying the team has not determined a reopening date for offices and business units. It also said the organization will continue its “preparations for that effort guided by information from medical and public health officials at the federal, state and local levels, along with the NFL.”