Whether or not we’ll see fans in attendance this season at NFL games has yet to be determined. But one thing we won’t see this season is live performances of the national anthem.
The NFL we all know and love will undoubtedly look drastically different this year. And in its efforts to reduce the threat of COVID-19, Front Office Sports reports that the league will get rid of performances of the national anthem prior to games and possibly limit the presence of military and police honor guards.
From Front Office Sports:
The NFL will ditch live performances of the national anthem before games this season, sources said. Given the abundance of American flag imagery inside stadiums on signs and video boards, the league could also curtail the on-field access of live military and police honor guards.
The objective is to strictly limit the number of people on the sidelines who can potentially infect players and coaches with COVID-19, said sources. By the same token, the league will also crack down on the number of credentialed reporters and photographers with access to the playing field. Given the pandemic, the number of medical personnel on the sidelines will remain the same.
As to how this will play out on the field, the league has every intention to continue to play the “Star-Spangled Banner” at games. However, much like the NBA is doing this season, it’s likely that teams will ask performers to pre-record or perform their renditions off-site.
“This year will be different due to COVID concerns,” an anonymous source told Front Office Sports. “They want to limit the number of people around the players on the field.”
For viewers at home, this change won’t be drastic. But when coupled with the league’s various social justice initiatives, such as “End Racism” stenciled along the end zone borders, playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Week 1 games and players paying tribute to victims of racialized violence with helmet decals, it will all be a lot to digest.
It will also be interesting to see how national anthem protests factor into this decision as well, as it’s possible that players might be much more conflicted in their willingness to do so under these new conditions. Brett Favre alluded to what kind of locker room dynamic this could create in a recent interview with USA Today.
“I know from being in an NFL locker room for 20 years, regardless of race, background, money you grew up with, we were all brothers it didn’t matter,” the NFL Hall of Famer said. “Guys got along great. Will that be the same [with kneeling scenario]? I don’t know. If one guy chooses to stand for his cause and another guy chooses to kneel for his cause, is one right and the other wrong? I don’t believe so. We tend to be fixed on highs.”
To be explicitly clear, there’s never a wrong time to take a stand against systemic oppression and police brutality, but will players feel comfortable doing so in 2020 with so many other factors at play? Only time will tell.