The NFL and the NBA have a BIG COVID-19 problem and no easy solution
2021 was supposed to be the bounce back year where everything got better.
Until it didn't.
After months of steady improvement and despite a majority of both NBA and NFL athletes being vaccinated, both fall and winter professional sports leagues find themselves reeling as the list of players testing positive for COVID-19 is growing--exponentially.
The NFL has well over 100 players and coaches who've started their league's COVID-19 protocols just this week. The Cleveland Browns will likely be without starting QB Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski along with at least eight other players for their game on Saturday after positive tests. All eight individuals are vaccinated. For Stefanski it's his second positive test as he missed the Browns first round playoff game last season.
Odell Beckham Jr, is one of nine Los Angeles Rams who tested positive. 10 Washington Football team players are in protocols too. Eight Detroit Lions and the entire running back room of the Miami Dolphins, the list continues to grow.
At least two coaches and 37 players are on the NBA's list including star players like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Hopefully by now, you get the drift. It's a problem.
The NFL went into the season with a schedule that did not allow for postponements or cancellations, in other words, it's normal schedule. Same with the NBA. Both leagues initially announced a team unable to play due to a high virus rate would be forced to forfeit, something that hasn't been an issue.
With several teams struggling to fill out their rosters--both leagues have some decisions to make. What do we do next? The 17 game NFL season doesn't allow for much flexibility, the NBA has a little more maneuvering room.
Before the political nut-jobs jump in here, this has nothing to do with vaccinations, mask mandates or any of the silly things you all complain about. It has to do with life as we currently know it.
Like it or not, COVID hasn't gone away. Now that we are in the coldest part of the year, it's beginning to resurface as an issue. An unavoidable one at that.
I'm not advocating for either league to cancel their seasons, this is a recoverable problem. But some flexibility and creativity need to be involved. The NFL has been rigid in its "once a week" testing policy for players. It has almost no restriction on vaccinated players which is fine.
Most of the players who've tested positive so far are completely asymptomatic and just aren't allowed to be around anyone. There's talk the league may waive that rule which would create an interesting dilemma. Do you let people with the virus around those without it? And would those without it be willing to be around someone who's infectious??
It's a BIG moral question that I'm sure plenty of computer keyboard medical experts will offer up opinions on.
There's a lot to unpack as we approach January which is usually the coldest month of the year in the U.S. If 2020 was an indicator, more outbreaks of the virus are likely to happen and happen again soon.
Which means not only professional sports--but those wanting to live their best lives--will have a big decision to make. I'm pretty sure I know which way they'll go, but hey, I could be wrong.
Next up: The NFL and NBA. Like it or not, you are now taking the lead on this. And yes, you are on the clock.