Even under the best of circumstances, if every league gets everything aligned in such a way that makes playing as many games as is feasible a realistic possibility, there is still one final task at hand: getting as many players as possible to be willing to play through a pandemic.
The inevitability is that not all will play. We already know this, because several players in the MLB and NBA have already announced their decisions not to play, and the NHL has already said that they fully expect that some of their players will not play as well. Without question, there will be some NFL players who choose not to play as well.
Not necessarily for their own sake, though there may well be some players who have underlying health conditions that are concerning, but many who have declared their intentions not to play have cited the need to protect their family and other vulnerable people who are a direct part of their life. Many athletes have elderly parents or grandparents, or children with compromised immune systems.
Ryan Zimmerman is among the most prominent names to have announced that they will not be playing this season, a member of the Nationals in the MLB. “Given my family circumstances—three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk—I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season”, he said in part in a statement.
Avery Bradley of the Los Angeles Lakers has been the most-talked-about name in the NBA to choose not to play this year. He has a young son who has a history of lingering respiratory illnesses, and he has said that his son would likely not be cleared to live in the quarantined area teams will be staying when the league resumes.
In a league full of over 2000 players, it’s inevitable that there will be a handful of those in the NFL who will make the decision not to play this season. 2000 players, including those on the practice squad, and many of them are parents of young children with impairments of some kind that would put them at heightened risk of death should that contract the coronavirus.
When this topic comes up, I see a lot of people saying that they don’t really care about the plights of millionaires, that they have the luxury of making a decision. It’s true that they are fortunate to be in a position where they can make a critical health decision for their family.
But shouldn’t everybody have the opportunity to make that decision? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if we lived in a culture, a society, an economy that allowed for these necessary decisions to be made? This is an unprecedented global event in our lifetimes. There are few alive who experienced the Spanish Flu of 1918, though one of them was a famous movie star whose birthday just passed (104), Olivia de Havilland. Of course, she was a baby then. The point is, basically nobody knows what this is like. Is a little empathy so hard to ask for?