Super Bowl LVI may soon join countless Californians who have ditched the lockdown state over the past year in search of freer alternatives.
What are the details?
According to a report from Texas news outlet WFAA-TV this week, the NFL has begun looking into replacement venues outside California — including AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home to the Dallas Cowboys — in case strict COVID-19 restrictions in the state prevent the league from hosting the event in Southern California.
This year's Super Bowl is currently scheduled to take place on Sunday, Feb. 13, at the brand new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, located just outside Los Angeles. The stadium is currently home to L.A.'s two NFL teams: the Rams and the Chargers.
But a Dallas Cowboys league source reportedly told WFAA recently that the team and league have been engaged in preliminary discussions about AT&T Stadium possibly serving as an emergency site for the championship game in the event that health guidelines create problems for the event.
In a statement to the news outlet this week, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the discussions, though he added that it is all part of the league's regular contingency planning.
“We plan on playing Super Bowl LVI as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13,” McCarthy said. “As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances. Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there to culminate another fantastic NFL season for our fans and clubs," he added.
Even if lining up alternative sites is simply part of the NFL's standard protocol, the chances that a replacement venue is actually used are far larger this year than most other years.
Earlier Wednesday, just before the NFL news broke, the Recording Academy and CBS announced that the 64th annual Grammy Awards would be postponed due to health and safety concerns over uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
The Grammys were scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, only two weeks before the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the NFL has insisted that it has no intentions of changing plans.
“Every single game we’ve played this year in a full-capacity stadium has allowed us to hone our protocols and prepare not only for game day at SoFi — in what is considered an outdoor building with a roof — but also for Super Bowl week,” Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events, told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.
“Our plans for Super Bowl week and the game in Los Angeles are moving forward fully. We’re confident in our protocols for putting on full-capacity games safely,” O’Reilly added.