Amid empty seats and unused concession stands, NFL teams in 2020 converted their stadiums into polling places and COVID-19 testing sites.
Now, less than two days before the Super Bowl, the NFL will transform its stadiums into another essential service — vaccine sites.
In a letter to President Biden, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said all 32 franchises will offer their stadiums as mass vaccination centers.
Seven NFL teams — the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons — already opened their stadiums for mass vaccinations. The San Francisco 49ers are set to do the same next week.
“We look forward to further discussion with your administration as well as your partners in state and local governments to advance this effort,” Goodell wrote in the letter, which was dated Thursday.
The league invited 7,500 healthcare workers from across the country to Tampa this weekend to attend Super Bowl LV on Sunday between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL completed all scheduled events this season amid the pandemic without any cancellations, though the 2020 draft was held virtually and some games were rescheduled amid outbreaks at team facilities. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said that between August and January, the league had 725 coronavirus cases among players and staff, yielding a 0.08 percent positivity rate.
COVID-19 has killed more than 450,000 Americans. Though vaccinations are underway, the rollout has been sluggish because of logistical problems and lack of supply.
Both Goodell and Sills said in new conferences that the league would be a prominent advocate for vaccination initiatives.
“Let’s make no mistake about it, both us and the players association’s medical leadership believe very strongly in vaccinations,” Sills said. “We believe it’s safe, we believe it’s effective, we believe it’s imperative as a way forward out of this pandemic.”
Story by Emmanuel Morgan.