TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK: Saints Fans Have Difficult Choice to Make This Season

(Photo courtesy of NOLA Hat Plug,com)

Wearing a mask. According to the advice of most medical experts, the use of one during the on-going and recently surging coronavirus / COVID-19 national health crisis, is mostly viewed as a way to not only protect yourself from catching the disease, but to also prevent you unintentionally from spreading it to others.

However for some the thought of having to put one on, can be either emotionally or physically uncomfortable — and in recent weeks, it’s also now become viewed politically as an “infringement” or a violation — against the individual rights and freedom of American citizens.

But regardless of how one feels about it personally, if they’re fans of the New Orleans Saints this upcoming season, then they’re more than likely going to have a difficult choice to make.

That’s because yesterday, it was revealed that the NFL is seriously considering the possibility of having all of its teams League-wide make it a requirement for fans who plan on attending the games to sign a COVID-19 “waiver”, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic.

By signing the waiver, fans in that city would agree not to hold the NFL legally responsible in any possible way, if they were to get infected by the virus and test positive for COVID-19 while attending any of the still-anticipated 16 Regular Season games.

Photo Credit: Phillip Petty III, JRNOLA

Kaplan says that the waiver proposal is likely to be sent to all 32 clubs by next week. Additionally, he noted that top League officials including Commissioner Roger Goodell himself, remain hopeful that there still will be a season in 2020.

Teams have been advised by the NFL to prepare for all possible scenarios, which include stadiums with limited / “scaled back” capacity; to actual EMPTY stadiums — with absolutely no fans present whatsoever.

As of right now, each team will be allowed to set its own individual stadium capacity, based upon local health protocols and policies.

Which means for Saints fans that were planning on attending the games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, that they’re going to have a difficult choice to make.

That’s because given the local policies which currently are in place within the City of New Orleans under the direction of Mayor Latoya Cantrell, any Saints fan setting foot inside the Superdome WILL be required to wear masks during the games.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell

As it turns out, yesterday just a few short hours later, it was also revealed that the NFL has already decided to shorten the length of the upcoming 2020 NFL Preseason, by cutting the number of games from the usual 4 that are scheduled every August, down to just TWO games.

The League believes that by doing so, it will now allow players to have some extra time to get into better physical shape, since the coronavirus has kept them basically “locked down” for the most part and unable to fully train at their team facilities.

For the Black and Gold, it means that the team’s two preseason games will be on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday Night, August 23rd at 7 p.m.; and then now only just one Preseason game at home (instead of the normal two every year), inside the Superdome against the visiting Houston Texans on Thursday Night, August 29th at 7 p.m.

As a direct result, the Saints will lose their originally scheduled preseason games at the Los Angeles Rams (which was supposed to be the 1st Preseason contest), and at home against the Miami Dolphins (previously scheduled to be their final Preseason game before the start of the 2020 NFL Regular Season).

So what does this all mean for the Saints and their super-passionate “Who Dat Nation” fan-base?

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on

As we’ve mentioned previously: this pandemic is far from being over; and until a vaccine is eventually developed which can successfully bring it under control, the Black and Gold along with all of the other teams throughout the NFL, are facing the prospect of a 2020 Regular Season that will be permanently altered in some unique way.

The likelihood that the Saints organization would require fans to sign a waiver before attending the games at the Superdome seems pretty strong at this point, if Kaplan’s report is accurate. And you can almost bet that the wearing of masks is expected to be one of the conditions of any such waiver.

Perhaps that was yet just one more reason why the team sent out this tweet on Twitter the other day, encouraging Saints fans to wear their masks. The post showed a picture of Head Coach Sean Payton wearing a mask with his famous “do your job” quote from a few years back.

But with the wearing of masks having recently become such a controversial topic politically, there were more than just a few Saints fans out there (specifically on Social Media forums like Facebook and Twitter) that responded negatively to the suggestion.

Nevertheless, in spite of whatever “side” of the mask issue that devoted Who Dats are on, if they have any realistic plans of watching the Black and Gold play LIVE in person this season, then they will have to wear one whether they want to or not.

Otherwise, their only other options of course are to either stay at home and watch it on TV, or just don’t watch it all.

It’s unfortunate that something that should be so simple like wearing a protective mask, has become yet another  uncomfortable topic of discussion this off-season for so many Saints fans out there.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America/TNS

That said: the politicized issue of whether one “should or shouldn’t” wear a mask, isn’t nearly as important as the reason why it NEEDS to be worn in the first place.

An extensive study by medical experts recently following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus concluded that if the majority of our nation’s population wore face masks in public — even just homemade ones — that this could dramatically reduce transmission of the virus and help prevent future waves of the pandemic here in the continental United States.

And if that’s not a good enough reason to wear one in this unprecedented situation we all now face, then perhaps it’s important to realize it also shows respect for one’s fellow man (or woman), since having one on has been shown that it will keep all of those in close physical proximity around them safe as well.

And I tell you that this morning not just as the person who has written the article that you’re reading right now, but also as a 2-time stomach cancer survivor for nearly 15 years now.

I choose to wear one not only just to protect my very weak immune system; but also as a COURTESY to protect my fellow citizens just in case I myself, were to get the virus.

Photo Credit: Big Easy Magazine

Still there are those who will remain adamant that the wearing of masks isn’t necessary, given the scientific studies that have shown that they aren’t always 100% effective. And of course, those who feel that being asked to wear one in public is a violation of their rights as a free American citizen.

That’s definitely one’s prerogative to feel that way, but if that person is also a die-hard member of “The Who Dat Nation” who wants to be in that number on Game Day at the Superdome, then chances are that they’ll have a difficult choice to make in just a couple more months from now.

If you as a Saints fan plan to sign any potential waiver to attend the games, then you can actually get some great Saints-themed masks (as well as other available products) from the wonderful folks over at NOLA Hat (click HERE for the Link to their website), owned by one of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs (and a New Orleans native) in the local NOLA business community, Ms. April Brooks.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic threw a proverbial wrench in the Saints’ original plans of preparation and training for the upcoming season, and it’s been an off-season of uncertainty unlike any other previously in the Saints’ entire franchise history

But now with the sudden resurgence of infections throughout the entire nation, the adjustments that the Saints organization had essentially implemented “on the fly” in the past few weeks, now need to be adjusted even further; and the events of yesterday were a testament to that fact.

That same uncertainty seems to be growing even worse with each passing day, but for now the collective goal for all of our nation’s citizens (and especially Who Dats) is to hopefully get the number of infections and deaths back to within a reasonable and acceptable number until a vaccine or outright cure can be developed.

For some Saints fans and especially those who live in the local area or nearby that are season-ticket holders, it means that they ultimately might willingly need to make some even greater sacrifices, if they want to see and experience Saints Football this season.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

That’s assuming of course, if there even will be a season at this point.

But at some point presumably in the 2nd week of September, there are going to be a sizable portion of folks that are going to have some serious thinking to do.

That’s going to leave many Saints fans with a difficult choice to make — as they ultimately decide “to mask or not to mask” — a choice that hopefully they and those who are around them, can eventually live with….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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