Notre Dame COVID-19 protocols bar independent photographers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The Associated Press and other news organizations and publishers will not have digital images from Saturday’s Notre Dame’s home game against Duke because of the school’s COVID-19 restrictions on who is allowed in the stadium and on the field.

Notre Dame is not allowing independent photojournalists on the field or in the stands to photograph its opening game of the season. The school is using three photographers it employs to shoot images that will be uploaded to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s online media portal.

“The integrity and trustworthiness of AP’s coverage is reliant on its use of journalists and photojournalists that are independent from the institutions that they are assigned to cover,” said Denis Paquin, APs Deputy Director of Photography for Global Sports and Operations. “Accepting coverage from an unknown source, in this particular instance hired by the school, is tantamount to accepting handouts, which AP policy prohibits.”

Leagues around the world have provided photo positions for journalists during the pandemic, including the games played in the NBA and NHL bubbles. Some games have been covered from the stands, but Notre Dame would not agree to that arrangement.

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Notre Dame is permitting only students, school staff members and faculty to purchase tickets for the game and sit in the bowl of the stadium. Notre Dame Stadium will be limited to 20% of its usual capacity of 77,622, or about 15,000. There will be another 400 tickets distributed to families of players from both teams.

“In preparation for the 2020 season, the university has always put the health and safety of the campus and local community at the heart of its decision-making — from who would be eligible for tickets to the game-day experience,” Notre Dame athletic department spokesman Aaron Horvath said in a statement to AP. “Our decision to provide pool photos to all media entities free of charge, using internal resources instead of welcoming outside organizations was no different. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Horvath said the school-employed photographers permitted on the field are administered COVID-19 tests three times per week, same as the players, coaches and other essential employees.

Notre Dame is permitting 26 reporters to cover the game from the press box. Normal capacity is 180.

Notre Dame and AP officials have agreed to discuss alternative arrangements to provide images from independent photojournalists at future home games this season. The 10th-ranked Fighting Irish play South Florida at home Sept. 19.

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