Within the same hour Tuesday morning, the Seahawks, Sounders and Kraken all announced the same thing: Their fans must be vaccinated and masked at their games and facility events, or stay home and watch on TV.
Shortly thereafter, University of Washington football announced a similar tightened policy at Husky Stadium with the season’s third home game against Cal Sept. 25. Washington State football said its identical policy will begin for home games in October.
The Mariners, with 12 home games remaining, said the club will mandate masks beginning with Friday’s game, but will not pursue vaccine verification unless there are home postseason games that would begin the first week in October.
The decisions, based on recently adopted health mandates by the state and King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, were no surprise to anyone who has followed the depressing spread of COVID-19’s and its variants among the unvaccinated, as well as some breakthroughs among the vaccinated.
“A big thanks for our sports teams for stepping up to protect their fans the communities around them,” Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted Tuesday.
The Kraken said proof of vaccination and masks will be required for fans who attend training camp at the new Northgate facility starting Sept. 23, as well as its three exhibition games in Spokane (Sept. 26), Everett (Oct. 1) and Kent (Oct. 2). The Kraken’s regular season at Climate Pledge Arena begins Oct. 23. All concerts at the Seattle Center site will have the same requirements.
The Seahawks’ first home game is Sept. 19, the Sounders’ requirements begin with a home game Oct. 3. The Seahawks statement reads much as the other teams’ social media postings:
All guests age 12 and older will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours prior to kickoff to attend Seahawks games at Lumen Field. The Seahawks will begin enforcing the new policy starting with the team’s home opener on September 19 vs. the Tennessee Titans. In accordance with current Washington state and King County mask mandates, fans and staff will also be required to wear masks at all times except while actively eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status.
The new mandates are the latest blows locally and nationally to a sports scene that hoped the development of vaccines would bring an end to restrictions on in-house attendance. It’s certainly helped, but the continued resistance means the recovery of of the sports world, as with all others who have belief in medical science, remains handcuffed to the foolish.
Fans have been welcomed back in all North American sports that had spring and summer seasons. But the return embrace has been somewhat tepid. Some vaccinated fans are uncomfortable returning to events with big crowds, particularly if it means sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with fans whose jab statuses are unknown.
For example, attendance is way down at MLB games — although it’s way up compared to 2020, which was zero. The Mariners’ reported home attendance average through 69 games is 13,661, lowest since 1988 (12,622). That’s meager, but nevertheless ranks 22nd among 30 teams. Four, including defending AL champ Tampa Bay (8,608), are below 10,000. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead MLB at 32,434.
The bigger immediate worry for sports teams is, despite a vigorous national information campaign and pressure from managements for compliance, infection outbreaks are still happening.
The Dallas Cowboys open the NFL season Thursday night against defending champ Tampa Bay, but the Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that nine players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in 16 days. Six have tested positive and three were close contacts.
The Boston Red Sox had 10 members of the organization, including eight players, forced to quarantine as a result of positive tests or close contacts, as they seek to stay in contention in the American League playoff race. They come to Seattle for three games starting Monday.
In college football, second-ranked Georgia, which beat Clemson 10-3 Saturday, reported several breakthrough cases. Coach Kirby Smart said the outbreak is the most his program has had.
The Seahawks, who took great pride in being the only NFL team in 2020 without a positive test, had only one unvaccinated player among 91 reporting to training camp. Now down to 53 active players plus 16 on the practice squad, coach Pete Carroll said Monday they have two unjabbed, but no positive cases.
As they cling to playoff contention, the Mariners remain among the few MLB teams that have failed to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold that would relax some of the covid protocols.
But right now in sports, there is no talk of relaxation. The talk is of tensing up.