Will COVID-19 Outbreaks Turn the NFL Season Into a Throwaway?

Sports are officially back. While the NBA, NHL, and WNBA returns have been relatively successful, baseball has already suffered multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. With football looking to have a similar travel-based season on the horizon, it could serve as a warning for what’s to come. If the league isn’t careful, they could have a similar situation on their hands. 

The baseball conundrum

Even though baseball floated the idea of either one single bubble or multiple bubbles around the country, they eventually settled on a shortened season that still had teams playing in their home fields. While the league is being vigilant in testing for the virus, their means of preventing the virus has come into question, according to NY Mag

Thus far, of the leagues that have resumed play, baseball has had the most COVID-19 outbreaks among its team. While the NBA, WNBA, and NHL had several players test positive in the lead-up, their bubbles have, thus far, proven effective.

Baseball’s methodology, however, has not been so. Two teams have had severe outbreaks that affected not only them but their prospective opponents. 

The Miami Marlins made the wrong type of headlines when it was revealed that several players tested positive. The rest of the team took the field anyway.

Then, on July 30, another outbreak hit the St. Louis Cardinals. Inside a bubble, leagues can be vigilant about catching the virus. Outside, however, all it takes is a trip to the store or a wayward cough for a team’s health to go up in flames. 

Despite this, Rob Manfred has rejected the notion that the league needs to suspend itself again and come up with a better plan. The NFL, however, has watched all this from the sideline. 

Will the NFL learn from baseball? 

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As the NFL’s preseason workouts begin and several players from around the league voice displeasure with its current handling of the COVID-19 scare, Roger Goodell has some tough decisions. Goodell tried to ease the nerves of fans and players by releasing a statement about the league’s current protocol.

The letter stated that the league is working with everyone from the White House on down in order to make sure that everything goes right. However, it is still written as though the league will be forced to play. Goodell ends the statement on a positive note, however, thanking the fans and the league for the continued support. 

While Goodell didn’t say anything controversial in the letter, many are still questioning whether there is any point in playing the season in such a physical sport that requires so much travel. 

Should the NFL return this season?

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Players across the NFL have either pulled themselves from the season preemptively or teased plans to do so, according to ESPN. Furthermore, despite the success of the leagues playing inside a bubble, the country is still in pandemic mode. The preseason is already canceled, but the league intends on playing a full season. 

When this year is looked back upon, sports will be a small but significant part of the overall story. Hopefully, they will be viewed as something that either took a backstep from it all and let the country fix itself or served as a responsible distraction from everything else. However, if the league sends massive rosters around the country and things go awry, the damage could be more significant than anything the pandemic has inflicted.