Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but America has a bit of a coronavirus problem. And if you thought that Major League Baseball or the NFL would provide us with a much-needed escape from the perils of this pandemic, I regret to inform you that COVID-19 isn’t letting sports be great, either.
The Florida Marlins learned this cruel lesson on Monday, a mere 12 hours before their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles, when at least 11 players tested positive for the coronavirus, according to CBS Sports. And if this sounds bad, it could get even worse, considering some of those players who tested positive played against the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend—the same Phillies who had an outbreak of their own in June.
So with the Phillies at risk of having contracted the virus, this forced the New York Yankees to postpone their game on Monday against Philadelphia. The Yankees also locked down their team as a precautionary measure while the Phillies underwent expedited testing.
But if you think any of this is stopping MLB commissioner Rob Manfred from pulling the plug on this season—and jeopardizing the billions of dollars at stake—guess what? That ain’t happening.
“I don’t see it as a nightmare,” Manfred told MLB Network on Monday. “We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. That’s why we have the expanded rosters, that’s why we have the pool of additional players. And we think we can keep people safe and continue to play.”
Keep who safe? If MLB is already experiencing outbreaks during its opening week, how in the hell can it finish out this season without plenty of others?
“Baseball is in huge trouble,” Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, told The Guardian. “It makes me wonder if they are listening to the advice of experts or whether their experts are giving them good advice. This was not a plan anyone who knows what they are talking about would have conceived. It’s playing out like it was supposed to play out.”
Pretty much. And it appears that NFL players are taking note.
ESPN reports that after the birth of his first child earlier this month, three-time Super Bowl champion Dont’a Hightower wants no parts of this bullshit. He informed the New England Patriots that he won’t be playing this season and in doing so, he joins teammates Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale, Najee Toran and Marcus Cannon in doing the same.
And as more and more NFL players weigh the risk versus the reward, Baltimore Ravens tackle Andre Smith, Seattle Seahawks guard Chance Warmack, Washington defensive end Caleb Brantley and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady are among an increasing number of athletes who want no parts of playing a full-contact sport during a global pandemic—and these aren’t just benchwarmers, either. The Patriots specifically are losing valued contributors in Hightower (a Pro Bowler in 2019) and Cannon (starting left tackle).
Both the WNBA and NBA seem to have gotten it right; zero players have tested positive for the coronavirus since they kicked off their respective “bubbles,” but it’s only a matter of time before higher-profile NFL players begin to question if chasing a championship is worth it. And should he decide to opt-out, one player who could really throw the NFL season into chaos is superstar quarterback Russell Wilson.
Last week, he and his wife Ciara took to social media to announce the birth of their beautiful baby boy, Win Harrison Wilson.
With a Super Bowl championship already on his resume and his status in the league solidified, is it really worth jeopardizing the health and safety of his newborn son and the rest of his family?
“I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start,” he tweeted mere days before Win was born. “We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones.”
Only time will tell, but the weeks leading up to the NFL season will definitely be interesting.