Report: NFL May Ask Fans to Sign Liability Waivers to Attend Games amid Pandemic

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24:  A detailed view of an NFL shield logo painted on the field before the game between the  Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field on November 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Buccaneers defeated the Lions 24-21.  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Detroit Lions/Getty Images)
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

In order to get people in stadiums this fall, the NFL might have fans sign liability waivers that would provide legal cover from any COVID-19-related lawsuits, according to The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan.

A source told Kaplan that one plan involves an electronic waiver to make the process easier.   

However, Kaplan spoke to an attorney, Bob Hilliard, who questioned how effective the waivers would be should the worst-case scenario arise:

"Let's say a fan and his family go to a game. The team/NFL allows, by poor processes, that fan and his family to be exposed to Corona and everyone dies. The waiver defense will either be a question of law for the judge, or a question of fact for the jury, depending on the jurisdiction and the particular facts. I’d take the case."

The reelection campaign of President Donald Trump took this step when staging a rally recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those who planned to attend had to sign liability waivers.

Even though the start of the NFL regular season (Sept. 10) is months away, many are wondering whether the league will be able to welcome fans back as the number of COVID-19 cases climbs in most U.S. states. Some hoped there would be a lull in the pandemic during the summer and early fall months, which hasn't happened after states began relaxing stay-at-home guidelines and business restrictions.

Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, said on The Team 980's The Brian Mitchell Show in May (via NBC Sports) the league remained under the belief that stadiums could be full. Officials would change their approach if advised to so by medical professionals:

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"We also know that we have to plan for half stadiums. Three-quarters. So we're planning for all of these different scenarios. But first and foremost, we're making every effort, working with the medical community, if we can have those stadiums with all people until they tell us otherwise when that time comes, that's our plan. That's our plan of action."

Kaplan reported June 23 the NFL will—for the time being—let teams set their own attendance limits based on their local government's rules and policies. While that allows for owners to recoup some of what would otherwise be lost revenue, some franchises may be at a competitive and/or financial advantage.

One uniform standard centers around the first six to eight rows of each stadium, which will not be available to fans. According to Sports Business Daily's Ben Fischer, teams can tarp off those rows and sell advertising space.