If the federal government isn’t going to do anything to stop sports from being played in the middle of a pandemic, it’s up to local officials to step in and take the steps necessary to prevent COVID-19 from spreading just so that games can be played.
If local officials, other than those in California’s Santa Clara County, aren’t going to do anything, it’s up to sports leagues to recognize that playing their seasons is a dangerous and reckless proposition.
If leagues, other than the Ivy League, are going to insist on going forward with their sports, it’s up to individual teams to step back and say, hey, you know what, there’s a pandemic going on and we shouldn’t be doing this.
If individual teams, or schools other than Morehouse, aren’t going to look at the situation and make the smart call, then it’s up to athletes themselves to say that they’re not going to take the risk of playing on and increasing their risk of contracting a virus that has killed 330,000 Americans and counting — more than the population of the city of Cincinnati — and whose lasting effects remain a mystery.
And so we arrive at the Duke women’s basketball team, which was off to a 3-1 start this season, and now will finish the season with that record after the players said enough is enough and made the call that their country, state, league, and school would not.
COVID-19 had already reached the Blue Devils, who were idle from Dec. 16 until deciding on Christmas Day to not continue their season. The school’s statement makes clear that “the difficult decision” was made by those who were risking their health to play, and not anyone at any level who would supposedly be responsible for helping to keep them safe.
Duke’s women share a campus, a community, and courts with Duke’s men, who remain on schedule to face Pittsburgh at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday. Duke men’s basketball, obviously, is a huge revenue generator for the school, and even though Mike Krzyzewski has sheepishly called for a “pause” to the season, nobody with an ounce of responsibility for the Blue Devils being a moneymaking machine would dream of actually turning off the cash spigot.
Could those players do it? Maybe. The whole thing does depend on their unpaid labor, and their one bit of power is the ability to withhold that labor. But, as usual, when it comes to doing socially important things in basketball, it’s women who are miles ahead of the men.