The coronavirus is going to be an ongoing topic in the sports world for the foreseeable future, an inevitable consequence of the reality of the situation the nation is facing right now. As the major professional sports leagues begin to ramp up activity toward a return to action, the planning and preparation is becoming all the more urgent, and critical.
The NFL has the benefit of watching virtually every other sports league attempt to return to play before they do, but football is a very different sport in comparison to the contact necessary to play relative to others, like baseball, basketball, and even hockey.
So looking at what’s happening at the college level in football is probably in the NFL’s purview as well. After seeing a number of prominent universities deal with coronavirus outbreaks, or at least the need to institute quarantines based on contact tracing, they are certainly hoping that they can manage better.
So are college players, though, and some at at least one university is trying to take measures within their grasp. A few days ago, a group of 30 players at UCLA produced a letter expressing their concerns over the university’s safety protocols, ultimately issuing the following demands:
- Third-party health officials in charge of overseeing and enforcing health and safety guidelines. Also, see that guidelines should be clearly and publicly stated
- Whistleblower protections provided for athletes and staff (protection of position/job) who want to report violations of any guidelines
- Ability to make decisions with regard to personal health without consequences in terms of loss of scholarship or retaliation from coaches in any form. That is, it should be within an athlete’s discretion to put his or her health at risk and attend a sports related event without consequences.
One thing that is clear is that universities are not fully equipped or prepared for widescale testing. In many of the incidents that I have previously written about, the number of positive cases was based on tests of only players who had shown symptoms, or who had exposure to a positive case. Not everybody is being tested in all places.
I think it’s pretty reasonable that players would want a neutral third party to be in charge of the health and safety guidelines. It’s not as though it’s a secret that college coaches abuse their authority from time to time. And they get a salary, while the young men they’re coaching do not.