Panthers owner David Tepper thinks the NFL could play games this year with ‘some fans’ in stadiums

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – DECEMBER 01: Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper looks on before their game against the Washington Redskins at Bank of America Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jacob Kupferman | Getty Images

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper told CNBC on Wednesday that he believes the NFL could play games this season with “some fans” in attendance. 

“There should be some amount of fans in the stadiums, depending on what locale and where you are and what the local rules are. There could possibly be,” the billionaire hedge fund manager said on “Halftime Report.”

Tepper, founder of Appaloosa Management, said there he feels there should be enough coronavirus tests available by the fall to make sure that the players are “safe on the field.” He pointed to some European soccer leagues announcing their intentions to resume play this spring. 

Tepper said he feels that if people are comfortable flying on an airplane right now, it would be “practical” to devise a plan for some fans to attend NFL games in the fall. He floated the prospect of fans having to wear face coverings, for example, as well as other measures to ensure social distancing inside the venue.  

“You won’t be having full stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fans in the stadium either,” he said. “If you’re comfortable being in a closed airplane for a cross-country trip, 18 inches apart, maybe with two seats in between you and being 5 feet away from each other, you might be comfortable in an open-air stadium.” 

The NFL released its 2020 regular-season schedule last week, the latest indication the league that intends to play football this fall. It held its virtual rookie draft in April

Major U.S. sports leagues such as the NBA, MLB and NHL suspended operations in mid-March due to the coronavirus. MLB owners recently approved a plan to play a modified season in which games would begin in early July without fans. The players’ union has not agreed to the proposal. 

Marc Lasry, co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, told CNBC last month that he believed the league would eventually finish its season but cautioned it could be in July or August. “What’s clear is people want to see sports,” Lasry said then.

Tepper, who bought the Panthers in 2018, also weighed in on the stock market Wednesday, telling CNBC it is one of the most overpriced he’s ever seen, only behind 1999. 

“The market is pretty high and the Fed has put a lot of money in here,” Tepper said. “There’s been different misallocation of capital in the markets. Certainly you are seeing pockets of that now in the stock market. The market is by anybody’s standard pretty full.”

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report. 

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