These updated mask requirements mean players for the two NFL franchises in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles; its college football teams; and their opponents must wear some form of face covering while playing during games played in the state. Previously, most NFL players were only “strongly encouraged” by the league to wear masks on the sidelines and were not required to wear face coverings while playing, although they must follow all state rules that supersede NFL protocols.
According to a FAQ on the new mask rules posted on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) website, the new order will apply to the state’s athletes and sports teams, including those athletes who actively participate in games.
“Coaches, athletes (including cheerleaders) and spectators must wear face-covering when they cannot maintain a permanent physical distance from anyone outside their household. This includes while you are actively participating in workouts, competitions and on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc., ”says the FAQ.
Levine’s order lists a number of exceptions, including a carve-out when “face covering would either cause a medical condition or worsen an existing one, including breathing problems that make breathing difficult, a mental health condition, or a disability”.
On Wednesday, Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said the exemption would apply to players on the NFL team during games.
“We have received instructions from the governor’s office that our players are not allowed to wear masks during an NFL game,” said Lauten. “All other employees working on an NFL game must wear masks. Additionally, we will continue to enforce our protocols that require all fans entering Heinz Field to wear a mask. “
But on Thursday, Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger said the Steelers “have not been granted an exemption”. Even so, Lauten told the Tribune Review Thursday that the Steelers are claiming they fall under the list of exceptions.
An email asking for clarity from Wolf’s office was not immediately returned on Friday.
The new Pennsylvania mandate states that plastic shields may be used as face coverings as long as they “cover the nose and mouth,” extend “under the chin and to the ears,” and “leave no exposed gap between the forehead and shield” headgear. “Some NFL players have worn face shields attached to helmets that meet NFL requirements for the use of masks during training, others dislike the face shields because they cause breathing problems.
A number of NFL players have tested positive for the coronavirus, although no games have been canceled. Based on contact tracing and genome sequencing, league officials claim they saw no evidence of the virus being transmitted on the pitch during the games. Even so, NFL players are required to wear masks before and after games, and it is recommended that they do so on the sidelines during games (the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, and their opponents must wear face coverings on the sidelines as per local New York regulations and California).
NFL players are now required to wear masks when in team facilities, including on the practice field.
Michigan, which also has NFL and large college football teams within its boundaries, has a similar mask mandate for sports teams. In September, however, the legal advisor to Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) said that professional athletes in competition were exempt from the mandate due to the “very strict protocols” of their sport. Whitmer’s office also said face shields were considered adequate face protection for college football players.
The Steelers’ next home game is Thanksgiving night against the Baltimore Ravens, while the Philadelphia Eagles play at home against the Seattle Seahawks four nights later. On Monday, the city of Philadelphia announced that fans would no longer be allowed to play Eagles games due to the increase in coronavirus cases. 7,500 people had previously been admitted to Lincoln Financial Field.
The Steelers allow just over 5,000 fans to play their home games.