The Ravens announced Monday that fans will not be allowed at M&T Bank Stadium for “at least the initial part” of this season, joining a growing number of NFL teams expecting empty stadiums this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ravens’ decision came after consulting with government officials and public health experts.
“Ultimately, the health and safety of our entire community is at the forefront of every decision we make,” the team said in a statement. “We will always protect the well-being of our fans, players, coaches and staff.”
The ban on fans, while indefinite, is certain to include the Ravens’ Sept. 13 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. The team next hosts the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 28, a prime-time game widely considered to be the best game on the NFL’s 2020 calendar.
Over the past two months, the Ravens have trimmed their maximum stadium capacity from 14,000 fans to 7,500, even as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have trended downward. The team said it is working with local and state officials to “create appropriate measures that might eventually permit a limited number of fans at home games this season.”
Six NFL teams have already tentatively announced that no fans will be allowed at home games this season. The Washington Football Team, which plays at FedEx Field in Landover, said earlier this month that it would not consider hosting fans this season unless “the situation surrounding the pandemic improve[s] over the course of the season.”
An NFL season with diminished attendance would dramatically affect league finances. Forbes estimated that the NFL would lose $5.5 billion of stadium revenue, or 38% of its total revenue, if the NFL plays its season without fans. Figures from the 2018 season showed that the Ravens drew $153 million of their $438 million in revenue from M&T Bank Stadium’s ticket sales, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores, among other stadium sources.
Asked in April about how he’d feel playing in an empty stadium, quarterback Lamar Jackson said he couldn’t imagine it.
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“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I’ve never played football without people watching. So I don’t know. I don’t know.”