NFL plans to invite ‘true American heroes’ to Super Bowl to help encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

The NFL aims to honor health care workers at the Super Bowl in Tampa as a thank-you for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.

The owners of the league’s 32 teams met virtually for roughly three hours and discussed an array of topics, one of them being ways the NFL can recognize health care workers and help encourage people to get vaccinated once it becomes available.

One of the goals of the league is to invite vaccinated health care workers to attend the Super Bowl. However, logistics still remain far from finalized. Goodell said the NFL remains in discussion with Tampa health officials about the plan. The league and public health officials also are still trying to determine how many fans will be permitted to attend the Super Bowl.

“We will do this in a safe and responsible way,” Goodell said on a conference call with reporters. “As we know, these frontline workers are true American heroes and we owe them our ongoing gratitude, and we also know we need to rely on them for months to come to distribute vaccines , and continue to treat all those that are ill from COVID and other illnesses.”

The league and health officials also remain in talks about how to handle the Super Bowl week festivities, which are all expected to take place on a 2.7-mile stretch along the Tampa Riverwalk and would include music, food and other entertainment elements. Some elements of the fan zone could wind up being scaled back, but no determinations have been made.

Another topic of discussion during Wednesday’s owners meeting centered on the expansion of the regular season to 17 games.

The owners and players union agreed last spring to a provision in the new collective bargaining agreement that would allow for the implementation of a 17th regular-season game for all teams. The move could come as soon as 2021; although they discussed the logistics of such a move, the owners did not take a vote on whether to make 2021 the first year of a 17th game. They did determine a scheduling formula, which would involve the addition of a fifth interconference game per team. AFC and NFC teams also would alternate annually between nine home games and eight home games.

Goodell said a vote on a 2021 implementation of 17-game regular season schedules could come within the next few weeks.

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