In the past 48 hours, it was announced that thirteen players on the Texas Longhorns football team tested positive for COVID-19, twenty-three players on Clemson’s football team tested positive for COVID-19, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut down its training facilities after three players tested positive for COVID-19, five players and three staffers on the Philadelphia Phillies tested positive for COVID-19, the Toronto Blue Jays shut down their spring training facilities after a players exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, more than one hundred people frequenting bars near LSU’s campus tested positive for COVID-19, a player for Inter Miami tested positive for COVID-19 and a player for Atlanta United tested positive for COVID-19. And that says nothing of the exposure we don’t know about, or the exposure of thousands of people across the country daily, including record numbers in places like Florida, Arizona and Texas, and cases and hospitalizations rising across the country.
The only way a return to sports was justifiable was if the safety of players, and the general public, was maintained. It is clear that numbers are going in the wrong direction across the board to indicate that safety is being maintained.
What happens over the upcoming days, weeks and possibly months remains to be seen. However, it is abundantly clear that the plans of the NBA and MLS to play games in Florida are seriously flawed, and the flaws will be more and more pronounced as cases go up and up. It is clear with community spread in more than half the country that the threat of COVID-19 is very much here and present. It is clear that college athletes are not, at the present time, being adequately protected from the virus as they return to campus to work out, at least at some colleges and universities.
It is clear that sports cannot start again in the current state.
No one wants to see sports come back again more than so many people who are shouting warnings about an unsafe return. This isn’t a conversation about whether we want sports to come back—of course we do. But sports are not important enough to risk the lives and health of athletes throughout the country, particularly those who are not compensated and risk severe complications for future employment outside of their sports of choice.
Perhaps things will get better. Perhaps this is a mere spike and as we learn more the risk will be better mitigated.
But unless things get better leagues and universities are going to have to confront an uncomfortable, but no less undeniable reality, a reality that the sports world confronted in March, that a world where there is a significant risk of exposure of COVID-19 is not a world where sports can be played.