By Tony Softli

Student-athletes are testing positive for Covid-19 at an alarming rate among the collegiate level of competition, as colleges begin to train for the 2020 football season. While the NFL works closely with the NFLPA to set a course of action before sailing the ship through what looks like the high seas of a pandemic. The ongoing conversations on testing, how many per week, protocol on quarantine of players and staff seems never ending and evolving daily.

While NASCAR is back, National Womens Soccer League and Golf are all competing. The NBA is set to finish a shortened season, they will allow very few fans. MLS is back next week and MLB and NHL starts are right around the corner. Still the question should be asked, with all the protocols in place, will the players, coaches and support staff be safe?

The NFL has cancelled two of the four preseason games, weeks 1 & 3 will not be played, 2 & 4 will be a home and away for each team allowing them to experience the new process of travel and set up while dealing with Covid-19 required protocols. If there is a NFL regular season, will it begin the second week in September? This remains to be seen, the league will allow very few fans to attend games early on if any. My opinion, no stadium attendance is the only way to keep the fans safe, despite costing the league financially, lives are more important.

Lost ticket sales and shared revenue is guessed at 40-50 million per NFL club if fans are not allowed to come through the turnstiles. Not to mention the concession sales of hot dogs, bar-b-cue, beer, popcorn and cotton candy. The NFL is a machine and will survive, future broadcasting contracts with NBC, ESPN, NFL Network, FOX, and CBS will deliver billions in years to come.

So why risk the players lives?

In June Dr. Anthony Fauci the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and is a lead medical advisor for the White House against the pandemic, proclaimed that the NFL will likely need to sequester teams and players, something like the NBA is doing, to successfully play a full season.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble—insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day—it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

Another medical expert in Neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta has gone on record saying he is worried about team sports.

“It’s a high level of concern – maybe the highest for basketball, I’m sad to say,” Gupta said. “In part (because), you know, I was having this conversation with folks at the NFL. Social distancing and football are not compatible. … They are looking at all these different technologies, trying to think about, could you have these full face shield masks to try to decrease the viral spread? They’re not going to be perfect, but that could go a long way”.

The Green Bay Packers the only publicly owned NFL franchise, released the following statement to their share holders today (July 3rd). The message was delivered by President/CEO Mark Murphy to notify them about the adjustments coming this season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through the United States as well as other countries:

Although the organization remains optimistic, there is a possibility that Lambeau Field will be unable to host fans for games this season.

At this time, the team is preparing to have fans in attendance with new policies and safety measures to allow for appropriate social distancing, which will require the stadium’s seating capacity to be significantly reduced. Face coverings also will be required, and other necessary precautions will be in place. As a result, the special experience to which fans are accustomed at Lambeau Field will look and feel very different.

Because of the reduced capacity should fans be able to attend games, the organization cannot guarantee that ticket holders in the general bowl and club seats will be able to reserve tickets. Due to the reduced capacity, the team is also eliminating the Green and Gold package designations, as well as suspending the Brown County Ticket Drawing program, for this season. Brown County residents who paid for tickets through the program this year will be automatically refunded. Suite holders will receive specific information separately relating to their suite.

While preparations continue and the full plan has not yet been finalized, the letter asked season ticket holders to begin considering their options for this season. In the near future, season ticket holders will be asked to complete a questionnaire asking if they want to “opt in” to be included in the process for a chance to reserve tickets this year. Those that opt in will be asked additional questions and given further instructions; this opportunity is exclusive to season ticket holders at this time.

Those who choose to “opt out” of the opportunity to obtain tickets will decide whether to have their 2020 payment refunded in full or credited to 2021. Their STH status and existing seats and ticket package will remain in place for next season.

Still the question should be asked, with all the protocols in place, will the players be safe? The beautiful game of football is a collision sport which shares sweat, saliva, blood and breath heavily on each other on a given play. Is the NFL putting players, staff and their families in harms way to proceed with the 2020 season while virus is still ramping up. Once players spread the virus throughout a locker room and organization, NFL training staffs will be hard pressed to contain the spread, and are not equipped to deal with that type of out break.

Ask yourself, are sports and money more important than human life? Each of the NFL’s 32 teams fierce opponent is the Covid-19 pandemic. Reality wont hit the NFL or all professional sports until an athlete dies, a person thats not 70-80 years old with no under lying health issues.

NFL…. call a time out or better yet take a delay of game penalty and save the health and well being of your product, the players and your employees.

Follow Tony Softli Twitter: @SoftliSEA and TonySoftli.com