Sports: Playing on despite Covid outbreaks

Sports: Playing on despite Covid outbreaks

 We all need “joyful distractions” during the pandemic, and sports can fill that need, said Kurt Streeter in The New York Times. But professional and college sports are now “trying to plow through this worsening stage of the pandemic” to keep the TV revenue coming, and with dozens of players and coaches getting infected, it’s becoming a “circus.” 

The NFL in particular is “an utter mess.” All four Denver Broncos quarterbacks were recently disqualified from a game after being exposed to coronavirus, forcing the Broncos to start practice-squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback. (In a fiasco of a game, he managed to complete one pass.) A Baltimore Ravens game was moved to a Wednesday afternoon after 20 players were infected or exposed, and the 49ers relocated to Arizona after Santa Clara, Calif.— where they usually play—banned contact sports through December. Amid a brutal winter Covid- 19 surge, the NBA and NHL are poised to start new seasons. 

If safety were really the priority, games would be halted indefinitely. “In fairness to football,” said Margaret Carlson in, it’s the hardest sport to play safely during a pandemic: “a gym, a restaurant, a high school, and a bar fight rolled into one.” The NFL has been fining the many coaches and players caught attending indoor events and failing to wear masks, and it conducts daily testing—a tall task for teams with 53 players and dozens more coaches and trainers. Faced with many inevitable outbreaks, the NFL has followed Major League Baseball’s model of simply barreling forward in hopes of getting to the revenuegenerating playoffs. Some teams even allow limited attendance; the Dallas Cowboys admitted 31,700 fans to a November game. “If you think the NFL is reckless,” said Will Leitch in, “you should see what college basketball is doing.” No. 1–ranked Gonzaga had a player and staffer test positive for Covid-19 after flying to a game but played the game anyway. 

“Fingers crossed!” At least pro athletes get paid, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune, but for universities to encourage college studentathletes to play through a pandemic has been “a moral failing of staggering proportions.” When games have been canceled because of outbreaks, some millionaire coaches have accused their opponents of chickening out. “Shame on them.”