Pandemic Procedures of Professional Sports

After months of speculation about the resumption of American professional sports, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) restarted their 2020 seasons on July 30 and September 10, respectively. The measures that both of these leagues took to combat COVID-19, however, were different.

The 22 NBA teams that were selected to resume the season stay in Disney’s Entertainment and Sports Programming Network Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, where a strictly enforced bubble surrounds the campus. Fans will not be in attendance at the games, and the coaching staff at the courts are limited to only the most important ones.

Although players are allowed to move around the campus to attend shootaround practice, games and open areas, leaving the bubble is prohibited. Any player that crosses the perimeter is mandated a 14 day quarantine period and multiple negative COVID tests. All players and staff are required to wear contact tracing bracelets that sound when two people stand less than six feet apart for over five seconds.

Regarding COVID tests, the NBA will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which produces more accurate results than other types of tests such as the antibody or antigen test. When a player or staff member tests positive, they must self-isolate until they return two negative tests 24 or more hours apart.

An official 113-page report, however, constructed by the NBA administration details that “the occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season.” Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, confirmed that there were zero positive cases of COVID-19 since players arrived in early July.

Weeks before the start of the 2020-2021 NFL season, the league administration faced severe criticism on how the coronavirus was handled. Many NFL players expressed their concern over the reopening of practice facilities and game protocols after Commissioner Roger Goodell did not have a concrete plan on the safety regulations for the new season.One example is face coverings, which will not be mandatory for coaches and players to wear on the sidelines.

Many fans and critics have questioned why the NFL did not mirror the NBA’s bubble, but the size of the NFL would make it difficult. An NFL roster has 53 players and all 32 NFL teams must compete, whereas an NBA team only has 15 and only the top 22 teams in the resumption of the 2019-2020 season were selected to compete.

The NFL has decided that all teams will travel to their respective opponents’ stadiums with limited fan and staff attendance.All players and staff are required to take PCR tests every day when they do not have a game. If anyone tests positive, they must quarantine for 10 days, pass two negative tests within 24 hours and be cleared by the NFL’s chief medical officer.

Commissioner Goodell emphasizes, “Possible game forfeits or the loss of draft picks for teams would be handed down on teams if its players were found to have violated the league’s coronavirus protocols.”

Although these stringent guidelines are mandated by the league, recent incidents, such as 18 Tennessee Titans players and staff, and New England Patriots stars Stephon Gilmore and Cam Newton testing positive for the coronavirus, have made fans and medical officials question the extent to which the NFL enforces their COVID-19 protocol.