Report: NFL Views Virtual Fans as 'Viable Option' After Using Them During Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2020

Football with 100 year logo during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

The NFL considers having virtual fans for its regular-season games this year a "viable option" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. 

Per Fowler: "The NFL is prepared to enhance the game-day experience with potentially sizable virtual backdrops inside stadiums, the source said. Enhanced virtual advertising also is an option to fill vacant seats."

The Las Vegas Raiders will go without fans in the stands this season, while the New York Jets and Giants announced they will have no stadium crowds "until further notice," which likely means for the whole season. The Green Bay Packers announced Thursday that they would go without fans in the stands for at least the first two home games of the season.

Other teams and cities may follow suit, with every team expected to operate at a reduced capacity if they do host fans. 

The NFL already experimented with the virtual fan approach during 2020's unique draft, which for the first time ever was held completely remotely and digitally. The NBA has also utilized the digital fan style during its restart at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, even having some former players and famous fans appear on the broadcasts. 

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And let's not leave out the cardboard cutouts that have taken the place of MLB fans:

Most major sports have also been piping in fake crowd noise to make up for vacant arenas and stadiums. That may be slightly less necessary for the NFL if most teams have some capacity of fans in attendance, though the league may choose to supplement that with additional fan noise. 

It's all a part of 2020's unique sports experience.