Let’s quickly flash back to March 11th: one athlete, Rudy Gobert (pronounced GOH-BEAR) of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for coronavirus, and the entire sports world shut down. Today, dozens of players have tested positive, and the leagues are somehow going full steam ahead with their return-to-play scenarios, even in COVID-19 hotspots.
The GIST: Let’s quickly flash back to March 11th: one athlete, Rudy Gobert (pronounced GOH-BEAR) of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for coronavirus, and the entire sports world shut down. Today, dozens of players have tested positive, and the leagues are somehow going full steam ahead with their return-to-play scenarios, even in COVID-19 hotspots.
Seriously?: The NBA, WNBA and MLS are all sticking to their “bubble city” plans in Florida, where more than 20,000 new cases (!!!) were confirmed in the past week. And get this: the NBA is even increasing the number of players and coaches allowed inside practice facilities this week, despite reports of “concern” from Commissioner Adam Silver. Don’t love it.
- Nevada, which has one of the fastest rates of new COVID-19 cases in the country, could host half of the NHL’s postseason, and cases also continue to climb in Utah, home to the upcoming NWSL tournament. All of these return-to-play plans — head-scratchingly — are still a go.
Are there any leagues that are not okay with this?: The gongshow that is the MLB still hasn’t decided on a plan to start their season, and with the new revelation that 40 players and staff have COVID-19, the players have decided to delay voting on any plans until the outlook is a little clearer.
- The MLB has also ordered all spring training facilities to close, while the NFL Players Association is advising their players to not participate in private group workouts.
- While the NCAA is still figuring out a plan too, they’ve left most schools to figure things out on their own. Thirty UCLA football players are calling on their school to allow an independent third-party health and safety team to oversee the wellbeing of the team, saying they don’t trust the team’s coaching and administrative staff to take proper care of them — another issue for another newsletter.
What are the medical professionals saying?: When it comes to the NFL, Dr. Anthony Fauci (aka everyone’s favorite member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force) suggests that the only way he sees the season happening is if the league is able to maintain the strictest of “bubble” environments.
- Similar to the NBA, the environment in which players live, practice and play would have to remain completely closed off from the outside world. That means all essential staff, including cooks, housekeepers and officials would have to live in the bubble, too.
So what do the leagues do now?: There’s a lot to consider here — sports are a business, after all. People need to make money and the industry needs to get back on its feet. We also need to learn to adapt to this new normal. Sports are an important part of the global economy, our culture and our lives.
- But it begs the ongoing, obvious questions: Is it too soon? And is it worth it? If restarting now means putting the players’ and staff’s health (and lives!) at risk, we can’t see how it is.