As more and more Massachusetts residents receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, hope for a return to normalcy continues to climb.
Patriots president Jonathan Kraft is among those who are hopeful. Kraft, who is also the president of The Kraft Group, believes that vaccinations and herd immunity will allow for Gillette Stadium to be at full capacity for this upcoming Patriots season.
“Once vaccines have been available in a community for a long enough period of time where anyone who’s wanted one could’ve gotten it and reached two weeks past their second shot, just to take the outlying point, then I don’t know why you shouldn’t be at full capacity,” Kraft said during one of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s virtual panel discussions on Friday, via The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman. “It’s sort of intellectually dishonest to say we’re going to be at a quarter percent of capacity even though theoretically you have herd immunity in the local population. At some point, you have to get back to living your lives.”
Kraft believes that with the regular season not starting for another five months, fans who want to get vaccinated will likely be vaccinated by then., which he thinks will allow fans to enter Gillette Stadium.
“As President Biden said, April 19, (the vaccine’s) available to everybody in America,” Kraft said. “Clearly, there’s a backlog so let’s say anybody who really wants it will have it by June 1 or June 15 — we’re still months out from the start of the NFL season (in August).”
Kraft’s recent comment aligns with what his father, Robert Kraft, said in March. The Patriots owner told reporters then that “I truly hope that we have our herd immunity so we have a full stadium and get back to normal.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said in March that the league expects to have full stadiums next season.
The Patriots were one of nine teams in the league to not have fans in the stands at any point of the 2020 season. Some progress has been made though locally. Massachusetts has started a soft re-opening of allowing fans back in arenas and stadiums. In March, the state allowed sports venues to open at 12 percent capacity.
So far, only the Texas Rangers have re-opened their stadium to full capacity among teams in the major professional sports leagues. The Rangers made headlines Monday when they hosted a crowd of at least 38,000 at Globe Life Field for their home opener, making it the first sporting event in America to have such a capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic altered the sports world.
As for on-the-field matters, Kraft doesn’t believe changes made due to the pandemic will stick permanently.
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