On the surface, most things may look the same when Buffalo Bills fans enter Highmark Stadium for the team’s next home game, scheduled for 1 p.m. on September 26 against the Washington Football Team, but a significant announcement made on Tuesday has certainly changed things for fans.
The move was announced by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz early Tuesday afternoon and the rules will apply for both Bills and Buffalo Sabres home games.
Poloncarz noted that during the Bills 23-16 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week One, an overall lack of following instruction partially prompted the new vaccine ruling.
“Poloncarz: ‘I was disappointed’ in lack of fans not wearing masks as instructed. Says seeing that made the new policy necessary,” The Athletic’s Tim Graham tweeted.
“Poloncarz: “If you want to go to the games, get vaccinated,” Graham wrote.
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The Bills will travel to face the Miami Dolphins in Week Two, with that game scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 19.
Which Other NFL Teams Already Required Fan Vaccinations for Home Games?
While most of the 32 NFL teams haven’t yet instituted a vaccination requirement for fans, the Bills won’t be the first to do it. There have also been a handful of NBA teams to adopt the policy.
“The New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders were the other three teams to require proof of vaccine for entry – each team following local and state government guidelines,” Sportsnaut’s Vincent Frank wrote. “For the Raiders, said requirement came at a cost as the resale market for their tickets decreased by 50% after the requirement was announced. With that said, Vegas’ home opener against the Baltimore Ravens Monday night was as electric as all get out.”
While the New Orleans Saints have tried their best at limiting the spread of the virus with their vaccination requirement, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that the organization looks to be in the midst of an outbreak.
The Bills will debut their new vaccination requirements later in September, while both the Raiders and Saints opened their seasons at home. The Seattle Seahawks have their home-opener at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
How Many of the Bills Players Are Unvaccinated?
During an interview with Graham last week, Bills general manager Brandon Beane was asked about the team’s current vaccination rate.
“We’re in the single digits (of unvaccinated players). We’ve definitely moved the needle, so to speak. But we’ll see. I know there are guys that are still doing their research. We’ll continue to educate them,” Beane said. “Our guys have handled it well, no matter what your viewpoint is.”
More recently, just hours before kickoff to Sunday’s slate of games in Week One, CBS Sports Insider Jason La Confora wrote that all but five teams in the league had a rate of 90% or greater.
“The NFL is moving closer to its goal of getting as many players vaccinated as possible, with nearly 94% of all players on Week 1 rosters getting the COVID-19 vaccine,” La Confora wrote. “According to the NFL, 93.5% of all players and more than 99% of all club personnel are vaccinated. There are 17 teams above 95% and 27 clubs have 90% or more of all players vaccinated. The lowest club is at 80% and there are three teams between 80-85%.”
La Confora added that the Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were fully vaccinated, but didn’t mention the Bills in his article. Buffalo, of course, had its COVID-19 scares during pre-season, and have one of the more vocal anti-vaxxers in the league on the roster in Cole Beasley, but so far so good through the first week of the regular season.