A pandemic season played in empty stadiums would be problematic for the NFL. About $5.5 billion of stadium revenue would be out the window, Forbes reports. That includes money lost in tickets, concessions, sponsors and parking and at team stores. Some franchises would suffer more than others. The Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots would lose more than half their usual take, based on 2018 figures, while the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals would be down about a third. The players would take a hit, too: 47% of football-related income is slated to go to them in the 2020 season under the collective bargaining agreement.
But more than money would be lost, one player said. "I feel like you need fans to play the game," said Aaron Donald, a star defensive lineman or the Los Angeles Rams. Playing in an empty stadium "wouldn't be fun to me," he said, per the AP. It's not certain that the NFL will play with spectators watching only on TV. Health officials could endorse opening stadiums. Or some states could allow fans while others don't, ProFootballTalk points out. Donald realizes the decision is out of his hands, but he said he counts on the crowd. "The fans would give you that extra juice when you're tired and fatigued," he said. "When you make that big play and you hear 80,000 fans going crazy, that pumps you up." Without them, he said, "There’s just no excitement." (Read more NFL stories.)