What if the NFL Had Taken COVID Seriously From the Start?

Illustration for article titled What if the NFL Had Taken COVID Seriously From the Start?
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Shutterstock)

Sunday saw NFL players, in a coordinated approach, posting tweets with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, calling for the league to listen to experts when it comes to opening up training camps as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country.


Here are a few:

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

“I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay.”.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees

“We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt

“Once again in the interest of keeping everyone (players & fans) as informed as possible, here is an updated list of what we as players know and don’t know as the first group gets set to report to training camp tomorrow.”


Browns receiver Jarvis Landry

“Crazy to see how the NFL is not following the recommendations of its own experts regarding health and safety for Us as players! As of today questions have not been answered and we want to play football. Y’all want to watch football this year?#WeWantToPlay


Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

“It is disheartening to hear the NFL is unwilling to follow the recommendations of their own experts regarding player health & safety. If we want to have a FULL season the NFL needs to listen to their experts!   #WeWantToPlay @NFL


Browns defensive end Myles Garrett

“If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. #WeWantToPlay.”


Athletes expressing their concern about their health and what the NFL plans to do to make this 2020 season safe is certainly needed. Players having to return to work are not just risking their health, but that of the loved ones around them, something that can’t be stressed enough. And how COVID-19 impacts individuals clearly varies. While some contract the virus and are asymptomatic throughout, others may have mild effects (golf legend Jack Nicklaus detailed his experience with the virus Sunday), to quite serious (as Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman prayed he could survive it) to lethal, as over 140,000 Americans have died from the virus.


It’s been 131 days since the NBA shut down its season. Perhaps the NFL believed back in late February and March, as the virus began to spread across the country, that it would just fade away, as President Trump once stated, with warmer weather in April. Perhaps the NFL felt this was a problem for the NBA and NHL, whose seasons were interrupted, and MLB, that was just ramping up in Spring Training. Perhaps it felt COVID-19 would be something other sports would have to deal with, and not it, with its games not played till September. But we know that’s wrong now, as states across the country set daily records in positive tests. Fifteen positive tests have now turned into nearly four million.

So, it brings me to think how things could have been different if the NFL, in conjunction with its players, took a lead role in getting its fans, many of them in southern states that are being directly impacted by this latest surge in cases and death, to confront the virus. What would have happened if owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell released public service announcements telling their millions of fans, if you don’t work to socially distance now, if you don’t work to wear a mask now, if you don’t work to wash your hands now, you won’t get to see us work this fall.


What if players and owners tweeted selfies while wearing a mask? Washing their hands? Applying hand sanitizer?

Instead, we saw stories like Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot hosting parties back in April and Tom Brady violating social distancing policies. What if they were leading by example and tweeting about it? What if the NFL made it its mission to get people to take this seriously by taking COVID-19 seriously itself, and encouraged its followers to do all they could to help get the virus under control, as we’ve seen in Europe?


What if there was a league-wide COVID-19 blitz back in March and into April, by everyone? With the season in the balance.

What if the NFL didn’t think COVID-19 wasn’t going to impact its season?

It’s possible that we might not have needed Sunday’s tweet blitz at all.

Been editing/writing sports for some time, mainly in NYC and a stint in LA.