Pro Football HOF Game, Ceremony Fans Unlikely Amid Pandemic, Ohio Gov. Says

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 13:  The Pro Football Hall of Fame bust belonging to late owner of the Denver Broncos Pat Bowlen is on display during a halftime ceremony against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High on October 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Last Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, reopened to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday it is unlikely the 2020 Hall of Fame Game and the induction ceremony would have fans present, via Ben Axelrod of WKYC:

“As much as I hate to say this, because we’ve all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and really across the country, it’s a great great event that we’ve been looking forward to, [but ] having a crowd that size is highly unlikely. it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today.

“Again, we have to see where we are at that point, but that’s a large crowd, a lot of people together. These are the things that we’ve talked about all the way through this as we open Ohio up and we get back to work and we get back to doing the things that we like, probably the last things that are going to be able to be open are the big crowds, particularly when you have big crowds that are close together. So we have to continue to look at it and make decisions as we move forward, but if the question was, ‘could that even occur today?’ the answer would be, ‘no.'”

The Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to open the preseason against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 6 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which holds 23,000 fans, and the enshrinement ceremony is set for Aug. 8. The game sold out in roughly 30 minutes, and more than 10,000 tickets have been purchased for the induction. 

Last week, Hall of Fame vice president of communications Rich Desrosiers said the hope is to have fans in attendance at both events, per Jonathan Jones of CBSSports.com:

“One of the things we’re hoping for and that we’re willing to do is to almost be the test case for the NFL. Give us the green light, and we’ll show folks how it can be done safely for fans, safely for participants and safely for the employees here. We feel very positive about the prospects of this happening in early August.”

This year’s class includes Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James, Troy Polamalu, Bill Cowher, Jimmy Johnson, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young.

The weekend would kick off 2020 NFL football at a time when the league has looked to avoid any delays to this season.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported on Get Up!: “I interacted with approximately six NFL head coaches, and one of them said without equivocation that the start of the season needs to be pushed back.”

According to Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams, July 1 may serve as the de facto deadline for the league to make a decision on the Hall of Fame weekend. The NFL has reportedly been working on contingency plans, including moving the HOF weekend to a later day in August or combining this year’s inductees with the class of 2021.   

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