Professional Sports' Response to the Corona Virus
By John McCarthy
Volume 1 Issue 2
November 24, 2020
Image provided by Al Belo
COVID-19 has had a major impact on multiple aspects of our lives. The response to the virus is a dividing issue that strengthens or weakens the faith in a system. The question surrounding every school, business, and state, has been whether to reopen their facilities or to remain closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Have professional sports leagues dropped the ball in their COVID-19 responses?
Sports fans are emphatic about the fact that once again, professional sports are being played. We love watching and talking about the excitement, competition, and tradition of our favorite teams and players. Although viewer engagement and money flow through sports once again, coronavirus cases are a common occurrence, especially in the contact sports. There have been many cases of players and staff members contracting COVID-19. On the grand stage, every decision and repercussion is amplified for league officials. Each of the Big 4 leagues, the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL, have given players and staff the choice to opt-out of activities because of coronavirus concerns, but does the operation of the leagues themselves eschew the severity of COVID-19?
The Los Angeles Dodgers recently won the 2020 World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays after a shortened sixty game season. After the seventh inning of game six of the World Series, Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner was taken out of the game because he tested positive for the coronavirus. The Dodgers went on to win the game and the series. A World Series celebration typically consists of a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound followed by popping champagne, and there was no exception this year. A beautiful and crazy moment for the franchise, winning their first championship in 32 years. Justin Turner participated in the celebration, hugging his teammates and coaches without proper PPE (Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager is a cancer survivor). Although the excitement can get the best of anyone, nonetheless this was a blatant example of a poor decision that shows a lack of integrity on the part of Turner.
The NFL has seen its fair share of COVID-19 cases in its first ten weeks. Games have been postponed because of positive testing. Eleven Tennessee Titans players and 13 staff members contracted the virus after their Week 3 game. Instances such as these can cause a ripple effect across the league due to contact tracing. The Titans were fined by the NFL for not following the safety protocols. However, no suspensions were made. Players and staff contracting the virus on various teams continues to cause postponed games.
The NBA has set a great example of a safe way to conduct their league despite the coronavirus. The league set up a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida where every game would be played. Moreover, players would live in the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. Lakers center, Javale McGee, said life in the “bubble” was similar to dorming in college or a three-month road trip. The “bubble” worked extremely well. The LA Times wrote, “The NBA may be the U.S.'s best coronavirus success story, thanks to the bubble.”
The NHL had a very similar protocol to the NBA. In a 24-team playoff bracket, the NHL reported zero coronavirus cases in over 30,000 tests. The league set up two bubbles, one in Toronto for the Eastern Conference and one in Edmonton for Western Conference teams. With stringent guidelines and minimal travel, the NBA and NHL show how sports can continue safely and orderly, with much of the excitement a normal season would have.
Although the coronavirus cases caused modified seasons the return of sports, most of the major leagues put good safety protocols in place so we can all watch the sports we love. The world of sports, parallel to America, had its economy shut down for months, causing measurable suffering for multimillionaires. The real suffering was apparent in the boredom of die-hard fans unable to tailgate or watch their favorite teams. If league commissioners and players would have known how many cases would occur league-wide, would money and TV ratings still prevail? I believe sports have been shut down long enough, but the league operators and team administrators need to recognize the intense health issue COVID-19 presents and step up their game. I hope that sports continue to entertain, inspire, and empower safely in spite of a formidable opponent, COVID-19