New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will give away his Buffalo Bills playoff ticket after his decision to permit the NFL team to allow fans at the stadium prompted criticism and even a petition to ban him from attending.
He said during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday that he would give the ticket to Saturday’s Bills game against the Indianapolis Colts to a nurse.
"I’m going to give my Bills ticket to a nurse from Erie County Medical Center as a way of saying thank you and honoring all health care heroes," he said.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in-person attendance at professional sporting events has been severely restricted for months. The Bills weren’t allowed to have fans at the stadium during the regular season.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Jan. 3, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
The team hasn’t won the AFC East since 1995, and Cuomo announced that just over 6,700 fans would be able to attend the team's return to the playoffs for a Wild Card game Saturday afternoon. The stadium’s normal capacity is more than 71,000, according to the team.
Lucky fans in attendance will have to wear masks and test negative for COVID-19 before the game – at their own expense.
"A football playoff game is outdoors, which is a much better situation from COVID spread," Cuomo said last Wednesday. "We believe we are the first state in the nation to run this kind of pilot. We think it can be very instructive to us going forward."
Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who set a Bills single-season passing yards record this year, said the team was "super excited" to host fans for the game.
"Please follow guidelines and wear your masks in the stands so we can have you guys there for the rest of the way," he said in a Twitter video. "Go, Bills!"
The Bills will face the Indianapolis Colts during a Wild Card playoff game Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Officials said tailgating won’t be permitted.
Critics of the governor’s coronavirus shutdowns launched a petition on Change.org calling on the team to "ban" Cuomo from attending its playoff games. It garnered tens of thousands of signatures, but it appears it is no longer necessary.
Cuomo said he would spend the time working on his upcoming State of the State speech.
Fox News’ Daniel Canova contributed to this report.