The Panthers didn’t have any new positive coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which is good. The eight players that Carolina had to put on the COVID-19 reserve list this week, not so good.
But the NFL and its media lickspittles would like you to know that the Panthers organization, and thus the league, continue to do everything right, and the outbreak is all the responsibility of the players who got the virus.
As Michael David Smith wrote at NFL rightsholder NBC’s ProFootballTalk, the Carolina COVID cluster “was not a result of an outbreak within the facility. Instead, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said today, the issue stemmed from players gathering outside the facility.”
The NFL’s own website said “the NFL now believes it has an explanation for the spread,” then hilariously credited Sills’ “gathering of players outside the team facility” quote to a tweet from a writer at The Athletic. Why couldn’t the NFL get its own chief medical officer to speak directly to the NFL’s own website? Because the NFL wants to be as obtuse about this as it can be.
The league is scrambling, doing whatever it can to keep its season going, up to and including having the Ravens and Cowboys play on Tuesday night even after Dez Bryant was on the field chatting up his old Dallas teammates — maskless, of course — only to get scratched minutes before kickoff due to a positive test.
An outbreak at the Panthers’ facility? That would look very bad! An outbreak outside the Panthers’ facility, due to dastardly players congregating on their bye week? Not the league’s fault at all! In fact, they can fine Carolina and dock draft picks for this breaking of protocol.
This isn’t to say the players should be absolved of any responsibility. They definitely should not be getting together, for any reason, outside of work hours — just like the best practice for all of us remains to stay home and avoid gatherings. But the pretzel braid of logic in this whole situation remains ludicrous that people are expected to show up at work every day, and then not go out, even though businesses are open and need support, only it’s not really safe to go to them, so stay home, but also make sure to be at work.
Panthers players wouldn’t have gotten together during their bye week if the NFL had done the responsible thing and not had a season. But there was money to be made and, to be as fair to the league as to the players whose health has been affected by the NFL’s greed, nobody in government who had the power to stop the season from happening did anything. Instead, NFL owners and Donald Trump had been on the same page all along: play the games, make the money, opiate the masses.
The Panthers just as easily could have gotten COVID inside their facility as outside, because the virus is everywhere in this country due to failure from the top down. The thinking that an NFL practice bubble is a safe haven from coronavirus is no different from the logic that everything will be fine if you close restaurants at 10:00. Sure, everyone knows the virus only comes out at night and hates football practice, right?
The players are responsible for breaking protocol, yes. The NFL is to blame for going through with this farce of a season. And ultimately, Donald Trump is to blame for 10 months of stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling his way through this crisis. Eight more cases out of 15 million — 5 million more than any other country on Earth — and counting.