You would think we’ve moved past the “ignorance is bliss” line of thinking with COVID now that we’re over a year and a half in, right? Simply not getting tested is the easy way out, sure. Is it the safe, or smart, or logical way out? No, none of the above. But apparently the NFL and NFLPA aren’t really interested in any of that. They just want to play. The NFL forgoing health and safety considerations for the sake of pushing forward with the game is an all-too-familiar tune at this point, and this new development is no different.
In the midst of an enormous nationwide outbreak that has not left a single major league in sports untouched, the NFL has decided that rather than pressing pause for a few weeks to allow heavily affected teams to reset and not play with practice squad members, they’ve decided to go with the tried and true Donald Trump method of testing less so that there will be fewer positive cases.
Less publicly known positive cases. Not less actual cases. But the news coverage has been bad for business, and god forbid the NFL take a financial hit from canceling or postponing a few games. They’d never recover, I’m sure. Rather than testing all vaccinated NFL players once a week, the league will now choose a handful of the 96 percent of players who are vaccinated to be tested each week. Protocols for testing unvaccinated players will remain the same, and vaccinated players experiencing symptoms of COVID will be tested if they indicate those symptoms.
This feels a whole lot like running away from the problem rather than actually facing it with the resources and research we have available to us, but the counterargument from frustrated players appears to be that most of the cases in the NFL are asymptomatic. However, this argument really only works if the NFL is in a bubble. As they are not currently in anything of the sort, it’s not only the players themselves exposed to potential infection, asymptomatic or otherwise, but anyone in their circle of family, friends, and fans who they come into contact with, many of whom may not be as physically healthy or young as the players in question. This also applies to the hundreds of employees throughout the NFL who are not members of the team but come in contact with players every day, from coaches to trainers to referees.
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I may not have blinked twice if they made this change in protocol when cases were down and the NFL was healthy and thriving. If they weren’t having problems, then there wouldn’t really be any issue in going down to randomized and symptomatic testing. But to do it now, at this point in time, is a blatantly clear demonstration from players and officials alike that they are choosing to wilfully look away from reality in an attempt to hold on to the vestiges of their season. Closing your eyes won’t make the problem go away, NFL. In all likelihood, it’s going to make things worse. They had a chance to set an example for the rest of the major leagues and the NCAA here — one can only hope that this example is not followed.