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Opinion: Sports Push to Return, but Is It Too Early?

As states begin loosening COVID-19 restrictions, one form of entertainment is making its comeback after the virus: sports. The nationwide lockdown put a stop to all sports leagues in early March. Recently, the US’s foremost leagues have started to slowly return, planning to make their regular primetime TV appearances.


The MLB, NBA, PGA Tour, NASCAR, and MLS have released plans to return to competition—many teams and athletes have already begun training or competing. None of these associations are allowing fans or an excess of media. However, teams and leagues are expediting their returns to competition, and this comes at the price of sacrificing their players’ health. An exception to this notion is the NBA, which is taking extreme precautions for its players.


The National Basketball Association is inviting twenty-two teams to Disney World to play eight regular season games and sixteen postseason games. Teams and players are limited to Disney’s 25,000-acre campus. There, players and staff will be constantly tested for the virus. Additionally, the NBA will not allow any athletes or staff to leave the Disney compound. Basketball will likely make an impressive return, but unfortunately, other athletes and many Americans are failing to adhere to federal guidelines.


President Trump recently said: “We miss sports. We miss everything. We want to get back.” This statement is underscored by the Trump administration as thousands of unmasked supporters are praised for packing into arenas and outdoor event spaces to hear from the President. Just months before, Americans were taking many precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus. Washing hands, wearing masks, and following social distancing guidelines are some of the few tactics doctors across the world promoted to “flatten the curve.” The MLB and PGA Tour are similarly ignoring many of these health recommendations, giving rise to a potential disaster.


COVID-19 is becoming a growing threat for Major League Baseball, yet they are not taking many measures to curb the spread of the virus. After contracting coronavirus in early July, the second baseman for the New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu, was placed on a ten-day injured list. Luis Cessa, a Yankees pitcher, is also on the same list since recently testing positive. Last week, all thirty MLB teams were tested for coronavirus; staff and players from twenty-eight teams returned positive results. These cases across the league are prevalent because players are not being closely monitored or confined to an enclosed area. The spread of coronavirus across the MLB demonstrates that the only effective way to resume sports is by taking the NBA’s approach of constructing a ‘bubble.’


Professional golf is another association that is taking a relaxed approach to COVID-19. Dylan Frittelli, Denny McCarthy, and Nick Watney are three PGA golfers that tested positive for coronavirus. Despite their current health conditions, these golfers will be playing in upcoming PGA Tour events. On Thursday, July 9, and Friday, July 10, these golfers were paired in the same group to compete in the Workday Charity Open. The PGA Tour is still allowing players to touch flagsticks, play with caddies, and ignore social distancing on the course. Masks have also become increasingly rare during these tournaments as officials, caddies, and media correspondents choose not to wear them.


Both Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour are continuing to ignore COVID-19 guidelines. While the US is closer to the end of the pandemic, coronavirus will not disappear until there is a cure. Ending this virus will only be possible if Americans continue social distancing, wearing masks, and following CDC orders.


Until COVID-19 is gone, it is infeasible to bring back sports unless leagues adopt plans that allow athletes to completely remove themselves from the outside world. The MLB and PGA Tour are experiencing the spread of coronavirus because safety regulations are ignored as the healthcare system is less stressed, and mortality rates are dropping. This, however, does not mean that infection rates are dropping; infection rates are at an all time high.


Although New Yorkers are becoming fed up with the CDC guidelines, Mayor DeBlasio says, “It's all about health and safety first.”


Sources:

  • Brendan Kuty | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. “Yankees Put DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa, Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus, on Injured List: What It Means.” Nj, 8 July 2020, www.nj.com/yankees/2020/07/yankees-put-dj-lemahieu-and-luis-cessa-who-tested-positive-for-coronavirus-on-injured-list-what-it-means.html.

  • Detrow, Scott. “President Trump Pushes To Open Paused Sports Leagues.” NPR, NPR, 16 May 2020, www.npr.org/2020/05/16/857180616/president-trump-pushes-to-open-paused-sports-leagues.

  • Kennedy, Merrit. “Nearly Every Major League Baseball Team Has Had A Coronavirus Test Come Back Positive.” NPR, NPR, 10 July 2020, www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/10/889735793/nearly-every-major-league-baseball-team-has-had-a-coronavirus-test-come-back-pos.

  • Murray, Ewan. “PGA Tour Sends out Covid-19 Positive Threeball at Workday Charity Open.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 July 2020, www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jul/09/pga-tour-golf-covid-19-positive-threeball-workday-charity-open-frittelli-mccarthy-watney.

  • Staff, From NBA.com, and NBA.com. “Everything You Need to Know about the 2019-20 NBA Season Restart.” NBA.com, NBA.com, 4 July 2020, www.nba.com/nba-returns-2020-faq.

  • Washington Post Staff, Ann Gerhart. “Where States Reopened and Cases Spiked after the U.S. Shutdown.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 July 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/states-reopening-coronavirus-map/.

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