Vikings’ Kirk Cousins walks back statement on how playing in empty stadiums would be ‘a breath of fresh air’

It appears Kirk Cousins would like a mulligan. The veteran quarterback had some interesting comments regarding the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the NFL as it relates to the possibility of playing in empty stadiums in 2020 — due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While other athletes have made it clear how important fans at arenas are to sports, Cousins took the different road altogether. His comments were interesting, to say the least, and didn’t go over well with fans or anyone else whose livelihood is tied to butts being in seats during the NFL season.

“Honestly, we practice every day in an empty grass area and pump in fake crowd noise for away games,” Cousins said on a recent media call, via ESPN. “But more often than not, you’re used to it. OTA practices don’t have a lot of pomp and circumstance to them. So honestly, to go out and just play the game would kind of be refreshing, a breath of fresh air, to just let us know that we don’t have to have all the smoke and the fire. 

“We can just play football. So as long as we’re playing the game, I won’t have a lot of complaints, and hopefully if it’s still not returned to normal, we can find a way to make it work.”

Cousins immediately thought better of his initial take, attempting to walk back his comments in a Thursday interview with KFAN 1003 in Minneapolis. 

My point was that I love the game of football — any chance to play the game,” he said. “I would obviously prefer to have fans in the stands, and that electricity, especially with Vikings fans who are some of the best fans in the world.”

His well crafted follow-up gives the required nod to fans — something that will also go over well with ownership. The reality is each NFL stadium is its own micro-economy, with droves of fans showing up weekly to spend money on expensive seats, merchandise, food, alcohol and parking. That amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue per game, and millions upon millions in revenue per season that isn’t tied to TV contracts, but instead goes into the pockets of vendors and NFL owners. 

This is why teams build shimmering billion-dollar stadiums in the first place, after all. 

The goal is to attract as many fans as possible, and those who support the Vikings are some of the most rabid in all of sports. And while they — along with owners, local vendors and the like — understand the need for social distancing during a raging, unprecedented pandemic, it’s doubtful they’d view the inability to support their team in person as anything but heartbreaking. 

Necessary? Likely, yes. Refreshing? Not even remotely.

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