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Majority of Packers fans say they won't go to games, but rest say they're ready for football

Richard Ryman
Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers may have little trouble culling their season tickets list for the limited number of seats that will be available this season at Lambeau Field.

More than half of fans responding to a Press-Gazette survey said they would not attend a game this year, the majority because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, although politics, health-safety requirements and the cost of attending games also were recurring reasons.

In a letter to season ticket holders last week, the Packers said Lambeau Field attendance will be limited this year because of the pandemic. Social distancing and masks will be required at games. Season ticket holders can opt out without losing their tickets for future years; those who opt in have a chance at limited game tickets, but those aren't guaranteed. Ticket holders can get refunds for games or credit for next year.

In an unscientific social media survey and separate interviews with season ticket holders, 54.7% of 1,207 respondents said they would not attend a game in person this year. Broken down, 42.5% said they would not attend because of the virus; 9.6% said they would not attend because of the NFL's decision to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing,"  often called the Black national anthem, and the possibility players will kneel during the "Star Spangled Banner"; and 7.8% gave other reasons, most frequently being that they would be required to wear masks or that games would not be as much fun with diminished crowds.

Fans celebrate an interception by Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith (91) in the second quarter of the team's Sept. 15 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

 "Another reason I am opting out this year is because the NFL and sports in general has become too political," said season ticket holder Nate Hoernke of Mosinee. "The only good thing that has come from the virus shutdown is how much I realized that I don't miss professional sports. I can easily quench my thirst with amateur sports and was happy to see the return of the Northwoods Baseball League."

Of the respondents citing kneeling and the song, most weren't as polite as Hoernke, although one said he would not attend because the NFL blacklisted former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who popularized players taking a knee during the national anthem to draw attention to police brutality toward Black citizens.

Fans who want to attend games made up 45.3% of respondents. Of those, 2.8% said their attendance would be conditioned on there being adequate safety measures. However, the majority said they'd go no matter what.

"I'm opting in," said season ticket holder Troy Pflum of North Fond du Lac. "I'll wear a mask and I'm guessing the Packers don't want people to get COVID on their watch, so I'm sure they'll do what they can to keep us apart."

RELATED:Two games shaved off Packers' preseason as NFL shortens exhibition schedule

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Concern over coronavirus is by far the most common reason people said they won't attend games. 

"Until there is a vaccine, I have zero interest in attending any games," said season ticket holder Scott Barker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I don't believe it is possible to social distance in a stadium that holds 80,000+ people, and it is unrealistic that people will follow the rules and wear face masks."

A number of those who said they would not go to games cited their distrust of other fans to follow safety precautions or take the virus seriously. Given the number of respondents who called the virus a hoax or overblown, they probably are on to something.

Lambeau Field, home to the Green Bay Packers.

Of the nearly 8% who said they would not go for reasons other than the virus, the sense that games wouldn't be as much fun came up a lot. That's the reason Wayne Sargent of Campbellsport, who bills himself "The Ultimate Packers Fan,"  will forego games this season. 

"Going to a football game at Lambeau Field, or any stadium for that matter, is not just to watch the game. It's the tailgating, meeting up with seasonal friends and enjoying the comradery of others that makes it a special day. With all of the precautions set in place for COVID-19, I just don't see that happening in an enjoyable way," Sargent said.

"All considered, my opinion is that either it's all or nothing, and I'm going with nothing for this season."

The Packers have not said how many fans will be allowed in Lambeau to meet social distancing requirements, but it likely will be less than 50 percent of the stadium's capacity of 80,000. Average attendance in 2019 was 77,845.

RELATED:Aaron Rodgers hopeful NFL games will be able to be played with fans at Lambeau Field

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Here are other comments from season ticket holders:

"As of now my inclination would be to opt-in, but first I need to see the Packers' detailed plan for fan attendance. The games need to still be fun. How will they balance safety and fan experience? Will the restrictions inhibit the thrill of being there? If yes, I would rather stay home." — Jeff Albrecht, Silver Lake.

 "I’m going to opt in and hopefully get a few games and then get the rest of my money back. I’d be curious how many people opt out. My guess is that it would be hard to do social distancing at much more than 30% capacity, so maybe we get 2-3 games?" — Jay Bushmaker, Apple Valley, Minn.

"It looks like not much has changed as far as making the games safer, so no, we won’t be going. It’s going to be a weird football season, but what’s not weird these days? Hopefully, next year there’ll be an effective vaccine and the games will be safe again." — Nancy Selinsky, Green Bay.

"I will be opting out of games this year. It's not that I'm fearful of the coronavirus. I just can't justify paying all that money for a reduced fan experience. Making masks mandatory was the deal breaker for me. That will be impossible to enforce ... Fans should have been left to decide for themselves their tolerance for risk and possible exposure." — Nate Hoernke, Mosinee.

"I will be opting our of tickets this year. It just won't feel the same with only a minimum number of fans at the game. If the league keeps up with the political stuff too, I'll just be selling my tickets from now on to make money." — Bobby Christensen, Kenosha.

"I am leaning toward opting out. My gut tells me we won't be allowed to attend games anyway, and even if we are, I feel like the gameday experience will be very different and not much fun with limited crowds. I will probably wait until the last minute to decide." —Aaron Panko, Allouez.

"As of now, I plan on opting out. Yes, partially out of virus concerns, but also because if it's going to be reduced capacity, then it just won't be nearly as fun without the regulars that are around me every year. And I'll be honest here as well, if I could count on all the fans to wear a mask, I might feel differently, but unfortunately, I don't trust them and I have no idea how they can enforce it." — Erik Norlund, Minneapolis

"I plan on opting out. I just don't think that I would be comfortable attending games in person at this time. Honestly, I will be surprised if they are able to pull off playing at all. The thought of fall/winter without football makes me sad." — Daniel Spoentgen, Green Bay.

"I am likely to tell the Packers that I'd like a refund and we'll try again in 2021. If I need to go to a game this year, I have plenty of friends with seats better than mine." — Ken Ritterbusch, Orlando, Fla.

"We will be opting out. Our decision is based more on not wanting to tie up money without any clear idea whether or not we'll be able to go to games. Another factor is that I am less than happy about some of the political stances the Packers seem to be taking. I expect there will be some form of demonstration over the national anthem and I'm not interested in witnessing or being part of that." — Joe Boehm, Wausau.  

Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or rryman@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at  @rrymanPG or  on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/