While the NFL season moves full steam ahead with its upcoming season, Los Angeles fans won’t be allowed to cheer on either of the city’s teams in person as the season kicks off next month.
That’s because SoFi Stadium, the brand new home of the Rams and the Chargers, won’t allow fans to attend games “until further notice” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced Tuesday.
The decision was made after discussions with state and local health officials, according to a joint statement from the Rams, Chargers and SoFi Stadium.
“While we all look forward to coming together to celebrate this new era of sports and entertainment in Los Angeles, the health and safety of our fans, community, players and staff remains our top priority,” the statement read.
It’s a disappointing beginning for the long-awaited, 70,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, which was initially expected to welcome its first NFL fans at a preseason game between the Rams and the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 14.
The first scheduled event at the $5 billion venue was a Taylor Swift concert that was originally scheduled for last month but canceled well before then due to the pandemic.
SoFi Stadium has had one of the county’s larger outbreaks of coronavirus in a non-residential setting, with a total of 81 confirmed cases, according to data from the the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The county has recorded the most overall cases in California to date, with more than 230,000 positive tests as of Monday. However, transmission levels in the region have been on the decline as of late, with the 14-day case rate average dropping below 200 per 100,000 people, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Officials noted the ban could change during the season, provided circumstances and public health conditions “significantly improve,” and state guidance allows allow people to safely attend games.
“While we are doing everything to safely open SoFi Stadium and ultimately fulfill its promise to Rams fans, the NFL and to this region, we know our ability to welcome fans into the building will be guided by the wisdom of health care experts and the policies of local, state and federal government officials. Therefore, we won’t speculate on any timeline as to when fans will be able to join us,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement posted to the team’s website.
In a separate statement, Chargers owner Dean Spanos described the situation as “heartbreaking” but said he was grateful that the regular season will go on as scheduled.
“When conditions ultimately improve – and if we continue to work together, they will – we look forward to celebrating a new chapter of Chargers football with our fans, in person, fist bumps and all,” he said.
But while fans won’t be in attendance, that doesn’t mean the stands will be empty when the regular season starts: The Rams are allowing people to purchase cardboard cutouts with photos of themselves that will be displayed at home games. The concept is similar to that being done by MLB teams, including the Dodgers, during their abbreviated season.
The cutouts cost $70 for season ticket holders and $80 for everyone else, according to the Rams website. The net proceeds will go to the Los Angeles Rams Foundation.
The Rams open the season at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys, while the Chargers’ first home game will be the following Sunday versus the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.