“We are continuing to monitor air quality conditions in the Bay Area and are in close communication with both clubs and local authorities,” an NFL spokesman told The Post on Thursday. “At this point, the game remains scheduled for Sunday in Oakland.”
The fires began raging out of control Sunday and they have left at least 31 dead, hundreds missing and thousands of homes destroyed in California’s worst such event in more than 80 years. With no rains expected for a week, and the possibility of gusty winds over the weekend, the air quality in Oakland, already the second-worst in the country after Napa, could decrease by kickoff.
“We’re going to see a really strong settling of the smoke in the Bay Area on Friday and Saturday,” a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office told the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday. “Not to mince words. It’s going to be really bad. It’s not going to be fun.”
The Raiders cut practices short Wednesday and Thursday, with some players wearing face masks amid conditions declared “unhealthy” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The game could possibly be moved to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., located about 40 miles south of Oakland and the home of the 49ers, who are visiting the Redskins on Sunday. Waiting a day longer and playing the game at the Oakland Coliseum on Monday is not a possibility, though, because the Raiders will already have a short week, as they are set to host the Chiefs the following Thursday.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said through an aide Thursday that he is open to having the game played in his city’s Qualcomm Stadium, despite the acrimony over the departure of the Chargers, who could not agree with local officials on funding for a new facility there. “We are always happy to help other cities during times like these,” the aide said (via the San Diego Union Tribune).
The Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Raiders played from 1982 to 1994, is also potentially available Sunday. That stadium’s current tenant, the Rams, will be in Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.
Some college football teams, including Stanford and Cal, also may be forced to move or postpone their games . “Right now, we are working with our medical team and the Pac-12 to track the air quality every hour to make the best decision for our student-athletes and fans when it comes to hosting the game tomorrow night,” a Cal ticketing executive told the San Jose Mercury News.
NCAA guidelines call for schools to “consider removing sensitive athletes from outdoor practice or competition venues” if the air quality index is over 100, and to remove athletes “from outdoor practice or competition venues at AQIs of 200 or above.” A reading in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday morning revealed an AQI of 155.
“At this time, all competitions this weekend are expected to be played as originally scheduled,” Stanford said in a statement Thursday. “Local air quality is projected to fluctuate based on meteorological conditions. The current forecast suggests improved air quality over the next two days, but the situation is changeable.”
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