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Opinion: Should Sports Be Played During COVID-19?

Image Courtesy of the Washington Post

By Toli Geshow, Staff Reporter

The novel coronavirus, alias COVID-19, has overtaken the lives of many people across the world—altering daily routines and normalities. Educators are instructing their students virtually, masks are required to go places, and social gatherings are restricted.

Amid all of this worldly chaos, sports fans are questioning whether professional leagues should have resumed sporting competitions during the pandemic. As the pandemic responses across different sports leagues varied, the answer to that question differed based upon the enforced protocol of each sports league.

Since the beginning of the 2020 NFL season, there have been multiple cases of people tested positive for the virus: New England Patriots Quarterback Cam Newton, New England Patriots Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and several Tennessee Titans players as well as team personnel.

Due to the number of players, coaches and personnel that are occupying the same space, football should not be played during the pandemic to ensure the safety of the participants. 

Players had the option before the season started to opt-out due to the pandemic by August 6. In total, 67 players opted out of the season, and the majority of players did not.

According to the CDC, football and high contact sports alike are high-risk activities, which pose a greater threat to its participants. 

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The CDC states, “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attend travel from outside the local area” are dangerous.

The NFL schedule has remained the same this season, with teams traveling weekly for games across the country. The NFL schedule places everyone at risk because of the constant traveling that all 32 teams experience in a 16-game season.

With football being such a high contact sport, players are vulnerable to contracting the high impact disease. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials have handled their protocols very poorly, as they only removed fans from the arena and added face masks to the players’ helmets. 

Unlike the NFL, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have handled their seasons very well; the WNBA crowned their champion on Oct.6, and the NBA is three games at most from crowning their champion

What separates those two basketball leagues from the NFL is their commitment to play in a bubble environment. The NBA since July has held their games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. 

Eight regular-season games were played amongst 22 teams (nine from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the Western Conference) and the entire playoffs with the top eight teams from each conference. The WNBA held their games at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, hosting 22 regular-season games for all twelve of their teams and their entire playoffs.

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Both leagues held their players to strict protocols within their bubbles. Players had to quarantine in their hotels upon arrival and take daily COVID-19 tests to protect their health and the health of others around them.

Since both bubble seasons have begun, only two players from both leagues combined have tested positive for the virus.

What can other sports leagues take from the WNBA and NBA to implement in their league’s?

Unless they are willing to invest millions of dollars in a bubble environment, the answer to that question is absolutely nothing. 

Nonetheless, this protocol should only apply to big leagues like the NFL, Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Soccer (MLS). Other sports like golf and tennis that do not have as many athletes within their organization can play in a closed environment to ensure the safety of their athletes. 

Undoubtedly, the safety of athletes and players should be the utmost priority of each league, which is why every league should follow CDC guidelines to determine whether their seasons will jeopardize the health of everyone.

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