The football sidelines just got a little thinner, as sources indicate that the NFL won’t allow cheerleaders or mascots on the field during games in the upcoming season.  This is part of the health protocols established by the league to keep players, coaches and other staff members safe from the coronavirus.

This means that, when the season begins in September, people won’t see their favorite team’s mascot or cheerleaders.  The upcoming season is going to be different for everybody, and may be unique for the entire history of NFL.

Virtual Cheerleaders In NFL’s Future?

This decision was made by the NFL and NFLPA based on their most recent safety protocols.  The current COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for the country and the sports industry, leaving millions without jobs or income.  The decision stands firm concerning mascots and cheerleaders on the sidelines and field but, since most NFL stadiums probably won’t have fans at the games, at least as the season gets started, the decision to remove the cheering squads isn’t going to be too problematic.

The most recent protocols also leave out reporters and those on pregame television panels from having field access.  The new prohibition might also move sideline reporters to the stands.  All the changes are meant to allow the season to move forward without any glitches and prevent some of the embarrassment that was seen in MLB.

The NFL has been flexible about letting teams set their own stadium guidelines.  For instance, deciding on the number of fans permitted in the stands while adhering to local health protocols.  However, all teams involved belong to the NFL, and, as some aspects are ironed out, the league could set policies on what is or isn’t permitted like it has done with the team cheerleaders and mascots getting sidelined.

Mascots Likely To Return Later In The Season

In the case of baseball, people have seen mascots like the Phillie Phanatic in different parts of Citizens Bank Park, though without fans in the games.  It’s possible that a similar action might be considered in the NFL as the season progresses.  If the cameras capture moments of agitated mascots after turnovers, the sense of football normalcy could be back.  Everybody is looking forward to enjoying American football as it was some months before the pandemic, but due to the health crisis things cannot be the same now.  Fans need to be patient in this regard.

NFL Ready To Tighten The Screws

Besides prohibiting mascots and cheerleaders on the sidelines, there were also a number of other updated protocols mentioned by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.  One of these is that players won’t be permitted to buy takeout food when they are on the road.  Pelissero referred to this change on Twitter, saying, “One notable change in latest NFL-NFLPA travel protocols: Players and other members of a team’s traveling party — already banned from leaving the hotel to eat or dining in at restaurants open to the public — won’t be allowed to pick up takeout either. Check-in, then lockdown.” The guidelines are strict, and it is expected that each player and member of the NFL adheres closely to them in order to avoid any inconvenience.  Violation of the rules can carry a fine of up to $50,000.

Another prohibition is when players exchange jerseys, a very common practice after many games.  This won’t be allowed even after players have had physical contact and collided with one another over and over again in a three-hour period.

Pelissero reported about this on Twitter and said, “The updated NFL-NFLPA protocols remove the language specifically prohibiting postgame jersey exchanges — but such exchanges between players still won’t be allowed, per source.  All individuals with bench area access are prohibited from sharing personal items, including clothing.” The league needs to do everything possible to keep players and the rest of the staffers safe from COVID-19.  Maybe the protocols are not welcomed by everybody, but health is a priority right now above anything else.  This is an abnormal year for sports and abnormal solutions are required.