(RADIO.COM Sports) The NFL has finalized its plan for hosting fans at the Super Bowl in February, and it will include several thousand vaccinated health care workers being in attendance.
Roughly 7,500 health care workers who have been on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic will be given free tickets to the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 7. Around 22,000 total fans are expected to be in attendance, which represents about one-third of the stadium's capacity of 66,000.
Earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined a conference call of Sarasota Memorial Hospital health care workers to inform them of the good news.
"Hello everybody," Goodell said. "Sorry for crashing your meeting. I am the son of a nurse, and all of you have a very special place in my heart. I've seen the work that you do. My mom used to talk about it all the time, it's just extraordinary work. We owe you our ongoing gratitude, and can't thank you enough.
"I know everyone in your area is excited about an event that's coming in a few weeks -- the Super Bowl. The reason I wanted to get on this call for a few minutes to thank you all, is I wanted to tell you that we want your team to be there. If you're able to swing it, I want to personally invite each member of your team ... to be our guests at the Super Bowl."
"We accept!" responded one worker.
"You will be among thousands of vaccinated health care workers who will be receiving Super Bowl tickets in the next couple of weeks," Goodell said. "You're the first ones to get that offer, and we can't thank you enough. And we hope that this program will be a small way to celebrate you, honor you and most importantly to thank you."
The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on health care workers in the United States and beyond. Roughly 2,900 of the workers died from the virus in 2020, according to a joint study by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian.
At least a couple notable football players-turned-medical professionals stepped up in the fight against the virus, most notably Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a fourth-year medical student who became the first player to opt out of the 2020 season.
Additionally, former Florida State standout and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle temporarily set aside his neurosurgery residency to help out on the front lines.