The NFL and the COVID-19 Debate


Photo by Bob Donnan, USA Today Sports

Written by: Joseph Yun

Twitter: @ItsDuckinTooYun


As the American people continue to grapple with the ongoing COVID19 pandemic that has gripped the globe for months on end, it’s time to take a look at the feasibility of holding a full NFL season in 2020. This article will take a look at the pros and cons of doing such a thing in a new world of normal. Is it even possible to hold training camps in certain areas of the country that have less command and control over the virus? Can the NFL escape the fate of the other “Big Three” sports in North America?


Pros


1. “The league surely has watched and learned from other leagues”.


The NFL has largely escaped the harsh daily realities of the pandemic by virtue of timing so far. Its season was done and dusted before the virus truly impacted the country in general. Outside of a few positive tests from players, the league was forced to enact radical changes during the offseason, essentially forcing teams to conduct virtual team activities. The one huge benefit for the league was the ability to learn from the other worldwide pro sports leagues’ efforts and incorporate similar policies as a result.


We all know about the protracted, needless, and grossly obtuse infighting that threatens Major League Baseball as a nationally recognized sport in this part of the globe. That isn’t an issue with NFL labor peace for the foreseeable future. The NBA, while a productive owner / labor partnership, has had issues with getting a restart due to a litany of issues plus the specter of a truly year-long schedule grinding players down.


The NFL would be wise to flex its muscles and negotiate a similarly successful return to action like the KBO, Premier League, and Bundesliga with the relevant federal and state political entities.


2. “A return to normalcy”


The COVID wracked nation needs a return to this “new normal” that the virus has presented. What better than the national pastime that has long since overtaken baseball as the country’s most popular sport to provide a few hour’s worth of escape from the brutal, unrelenting, and unsympathetic effects of the disease?


3. “The fiscal ramifications of not returning”


Let me begin by stating that the health of everyone associated with the league should be paramount and the first thing on everyone’s minds. The financial consequences of not returning would be huge and felt even years down the road. Ownership stands to lose money regardless but the players would be most impacted in terms of years of service towards free agency, salary, and other related benefits. No one knows or will know about how much the virus impacted fallout will affect the salary cap. In particular, it’s a bit of unfortunate timing with the highly lucrative TV deals coming due soon. The league could be a business too big to fail.



Cons


1. “Does it really need to come back given the current conditions of the nation at large?”


Some people might take the view that a return to action would be asinine given the political and socioeconomic conditions at present in this country (I won’t go into the details but we all are aware of the ongoing national crises). Not to mention the rising levels of the virus in various locales, particularly in the South. There’s also the specter of ongoing social justice movements and the increase of league-wide involvement in light of the recent frightening nature of police activities. Can the NFL really contain the likely incoming outbreak within its domain when the other leagues are having ridiculously insane tough times in a “bubble” format?


2. “Can it come back without “hiccups” or breaks or even postponement?”


Due to the inability or lack of coordinated initiative shown by the federal government in containing the pandemic plus the historically aggressive cantankerous and rebellious spirit of this nation’s people (this nation was founded on the ideals of the revolución after all), the virus has spread to almost uncontrollable. The governments at the state and local levels were and are being forced to adopt measures on their own accord, some of the more harebrained than others (looking at you, most of the South). In turn, the big four professional leagues have responded in much more of a unified level (in terms of health protocols).


The NFL will be leaning on experts who are studying an ever-evolving virus so who knows what the future will hold for the sports world at large. Can the NFL hold on by the skin of its teeth to complete a season with limited medical knowledge?


Summary


As we’ve seen in the college game, there have been numerous cancellations amidst a number of positive tests and outright preventative measures taken. The lack of unification amongst athletic departments and the NCAA in college football will ultimately lead to its eventual postponement, unfortunately.


There will be positive tests as we’ve seen all over the sports world even in a bubble environment. What does that mean for the NFL when it has to manage 32 different cities in vastly different scenarios? Containment and quarantine will be next to impossible when subjected to the whimsical nature of state governors under public pressure to keep states open, particularly those in red conservative-leaning constituencies.


The inherently intrinsic American desire and sense of worth as a people actually could bring the downfall of sports as we know it. In short, wear your masks and follow the protocols, people, so that we can have Cam Newton inevitably lead the Patriots to an AFC East title and beyond AGAIN.


While no one truly believes that COVID19 can be contained for the foreseeable future due to extremely unfortunate and critical mistakes that began at the federal level, it is of the utmost importance of the NFL to cut off the spread as much as possible within its community in order to have a full or even semi-complete season.


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