Sometimes when I write a post here assuming the worst intentions of sports team owners, I feel slightly bad. Sure, sports barons may have a long history of using everything possible in the pursuit of personal profit, but does that mean it’s always the case? Maybe when the New Orleans Saints owners say they’re thinking of temporarily relocating to Baton Rouge so they can have fans in the seats, they’re genuinely trying to make the best of a bad situation and not just trying to pressure the city of New Orleans into opening up the Superdome to paid attendance?
Turns out: Naaaaaaaaah.
In August, before the season began, the Saints made a pitch to Gov. John Bel Edwards for a bolder idea: 35% capacity — a plan that would put almost 24,000 fans in the stadium for games…
The plan featured a detailed “seating manifest methodology” that showed how patrons would be spaced from several angles. In all, 23,875 people would have been allowed in the stadium under the proposal, to which Edwards did not agree.
That “seating manifest technology,” NOLA.com goes on to report, was mostly based on advanced fudging the numbers, as fans would have been seated less than six feet apart, the minimum distance recommended by the CDC, even though it’s also noted that the virus can spread across greater distances “under special circumstances.” Whether those special circumstances may include football fans taking off masks to eat and cheer in an indoor stadium is not specifically mentioned in any CDC reports, but it’s certainly a concern.
Also, luxury suites would have been filled to 100% capacity, because everyone in a luxury suite can clearly be trusted to stay six feet apart and masked within their extremely indoor space, which is then only a problem if you spend several hours together there uh-oh. (An official from Louisiana’s Ochsner hospital, who argued on behalf of the Saints’ plan, said that suite denizens would be assumed to be “cohorted group,” which given that Superdome suites hold up to 24 people would require some pretty huge households.)
The 35% plan was rejected by Gov. Edwards, who later approved attendance of up to 25% at Louisiana sporting events. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell later rejected any in-person attendance, though, saying her approval would depend on whether she got more state money to help deal with the pandemic, which doesn’t actually seem like great epidemiology either. And the Saints are keeping up the lobbying just in case:
The Saints met with Cantrell, medical professionals at Ochsner and Cantrell’s medical advisors on Monday about potentially phasing in fans for this weekend’s game and beyond, [Saints spokesperson Greg] Bensel said Monday evening.
“The city continues to see COVID positivity rates remain stable,” Bensel said in a statement. “The city currently has one of the lowest rates in the nation. We all agree that the priority is to make sure our city’s residents and our fans are safe and not to regress from the progress that has been made. We look forward to providing our fans more information shortly.”
Cantrell’s office declined to comment on the matter Monday.
Keeping people safe: When has the NFL ever made anything else its priority?