Saints Will Not Include Fans at 2020 Opener, Could Play Empty Stadium Into October

The New Orleans Saints will start the 2020 season with no fans in the stands. On Thursday, the team announced their Sept. 13 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be played in an empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's also likely fans won't be allowed to attend the next home game, which is set for Sept. 27 against the Green Bay Packers.

"Unfortunately, at this time, the trends across our state and region do not meet the standards of health and safety we have established with our healthcare and government partners to host fans in the stadium for the first home game," the team said in a press release. It was also noted the state numbers are declining, but "further mitigation of cases is needed and a reduced infection rate is required for the team to welcome back its fans."

The Saints' third home game is against the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday, Oct. 12, which will be nationally televised. The hope is to have fans there for that game, but the team will follow the same criteria as it will for the second home contest.

"While we have put together a comprehensive plan that will allow us to safely host fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, that plan has always been dependent on how effectively we, as a community and region, are battling Covid-19," Saints president Dan Lauscha said. "We have given this situation as much time as possible to see the type of improvement necessary to welcome fans into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but unfortunately, medical experts indicate that trends are not improving rapidly enough for us to begin the season with fan attendance." Lauscha also mentioned the team is looking to have fans for the game against the Packers but he stressed that "fans need to remain flexible and adaptable in case we cannot."

The Saints are the latest team to announce plans for hosting fans in 2020. Earlier this week, the Dallas Cowboys announced they plan to have fans while the Washington Football will play in an empty FedEx Field. The Saints' arch-rival, the Atlanta Falcons, is looking to have 20,000 fans for each game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, the Packers will not have fans for the first two games at Lambeau Field.