coronavirus and sports
October 7, 2020

The National Football League finds itself in a bind after more players from multiple different teams tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

Two more Tennessee Titans reportedly received positive results on Wednesday, bringing the number of infections in that locker room up to 22 and putting the 3-0 team in jeopardy of having a second consecutive game postponed. Meanwhile, Stephon Gilmore, a cornerback for the New England Patriots, tested positive Wednesday, as well. The Patriots, including Gilmore, played on Monday despite quarterback Cam Newton testing positive last week, which raises questions about whether they and their opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs, can play this coming Sunday. A player for the Las Vegas Raiders has also reportedly contracted the virus.

Gilmore's result, in particular, shows just how challenging the virus will be for the NFL. He had tested negative for three consecutive days prior to playing against the Chiefs, but the virus often isn't detected for a number of days after it infects a person. That means the Patriots, and perhaps the Chiefs, have to remain vigilant.

As things stand, the NFL, which did not employ a bubble like the National Basketball Association, looks like it's going to forge ahead with the season, but the league may have to make a choice of how handle to the remaining schedule if positive tests pile up. The possibility of a season cancellation loomed over Major League Baseball early on after the Miami Marlins experienced a major clubhouse outbreak, as well. Those concerns ultimately faded, and the shortened 2020 MLB season was largely a success, but, as Defector notes, baseball games can be made up by foregoing scheduled off-days and playing double headers. The NFL, which operates on a one-game-per-week schedule, doesn't have that luxury. Read more at Defector and Yahoo. Tim O'Donnell

September 30, 2020

The National Football League is postponing Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans after multiple Titans players tested positive for COVID-19.

The NFL on Wednesday announced the Steelers-Titans game that had been scheduled for Sunday has been postponed to allow for "additional time for further daily COVID-19 testing and to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel," per Axios.

This comes after the NFL announced on Tuesday that three Tennessee Titans players, as well as five team personnel members, had tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the Titans to close their facilities until Saturday. The Minnesota Vikings also closed their facilities after recently playing the Titans. It was the NFL's first COVID-19 outbreak, and USA Today notes that Sunday's game being postponed "marks the first NFL regular-season schedule change stemming from the coronavirus pandemic."

Since Tuesday's announcement, another Titans player has also tested positive for COVID-19, USA Today reports. The NFL in its statement said it expects the game to be postponed to Monday or Tuesday but will announce further details "as soon as possible." Brendan Morrow

September 29, 2020

The National Football League is facing its first major in-season hurdle regarding the coronavirus pandemic after the league announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Titans had three players and five team personnel members test positive for COVID-19. The tests apparently went through multiple rounds of evaluation to confirm the results, as is league protocol.

The Titans are closing their facilities until Saturday, as are the Minnesota Vikings, who the Titans played Sunday, although there's no word if Minnesota actually has any positive tests.

As things stand, it seems the Titans and the league are hoping the team team can safely play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but it will likely be a wait-and-see approach. Scheduling logistics, of course, take a back seat to the health of the individuals who tested positive, but the league is reportedly mulling contigency plans should the game be postponed. Major League Baseball, for what it's worth, experienced two major outbreaks early in its 2020 season, but the regular season finished smoothly. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

September 15, 2020

Major League Baseball is on the bubble train.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that MLB and the Players Association agreed Monday night on a plan for the 2020 postseason that would seemingly lower the risk of coronavirus outbreaks among the qualified teams.

The so-called bubble doesn't appear quite as extreme as the NBA's Orlando version since there will be travel involved as the playoffs progress — as earlier reports suggested, the first round series will be played at the higher seeds' ballpark, while the American League's division and championship series will be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego, and the National League teams will play at Minute Maid Park in Houston and Globe Life Field in Arlington, which will also host the World Series — but it sounds like there will be some strict measures in place.

While MLB hasn't officially released the details, The New York Post's Joel Sherman reports players on contending teams will have to quarantine at a hotel during the final seven days of the regular season, and there will be daily coronavirus testing. During that time, players' family members can stay with them and will be subject to the same restrictions as the team going forward. If a player's family chooses to join the bubble at a later date, they will be able to do so on the condition that they quarantine for a week in a separate hotel from the team. Tim O'Donnell

August 11, 2020

As reports indicated Monday, the Big Ten Conference is postponing all fall sports, including football, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league's presidents and chancellors voted on the decision Tuesday. In a statement, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said "it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall." The conference is reportedly hoping to move the affected sports to the spring, ESPN reports.

At least one Big Ten school was disappointed by the news. The University of Nebraska's chancellor, athletic director, and head football coach released a statement expressing a desire to find a way for their student-athletes to compete — perhaps through an agreement with another conference — arguing the university's "rigorous safety protocols" and testing procedures actually make it the safest place for them.

Elsewhere, the PAC-12 is expected to follow suit, but the ACC and SEC are still trying to play this fall, ESPN reports. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

August 11, 2020

President Trump's reasoning for why college football should happen this fall probably wouldn't satisfy a lot of folks in the medical and infectious disease research communities.

The president in an interview with Fox Sports on Tuesday said the season, which is in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic, should be played because COVID-19 "just attacks old people," especially those with other health issues.

It is true that the coronavirus is much more deadly for older people with underlying conditions, but young people, even athletes, can get quite sick from the pathogen. Indeed, one of the main reasons the NCAA's so-called 'Power 5 conferences' are contemplating postponing play until the spring is because of a rare heart condition called myocarditis that's been linked to COVID-19. Boston Red Sox Eduardo Rodriguez, who contracted the virus, has been sidelined for the entire 2020 Major League Baseball season with the condition, for example. In other words, death is not the only risk. Tim O'Donnell

August 10, 2020

It appears college football players and conference commissioners are increasingly growing apart in their desire to play games this fall season.

Several players from all so-called Power 5 conferences — the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and PAC-12 — joined up for a video call Sunday to create a statement expressing their desire to get on the field, albeit with universal health and safety protocols in place, as well as the ability to opt-out and the guarantee of an extra year of eligibility regardless of whether they play. Mainly, the players said, they just want their voices heard.

But the commissioners of those conferences had their own meeting Sunday evening, and reports indicate they aren't so optimistic about a fall season, with the Big Ten seemingly leading the charge. "It doesn't look good," one Power 5 athletic director told ESPN, although it appears the conferences may try to move games to the spring, like the Mid-American Conference is planning to do.

Long-time sports personality Dan Patrick reported Sunday that multiple sources told him the Big Ten and PAC-12 are prepared to postpone their seasons Tuesday, while the Big 12 and ACC remain on the fence. If the reports are accurate, that leaves the SEC as the lone league trying to salvage something. Tim O'Donnell

August 8, 2020

The Mid-American Conference postponed all fall sports Saturday due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision makes the MAC the first FBS conference to forego a football season this year.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said "there are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student-athletes in situations that are not clearly understood." But it seems that financial costs were also a concern, especially since many of the schools would lose revenue from already-canceled games against major conference teams.

The league isn't giving up all hope of seeing its student-athletes get back on the field, though. The conference is looking into ways to move the affected sports — which also include men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer, field hockey, and women's volleyball — to the spring, and ESPN has reportedly said it's open to fitting televised games into its broadcast schedule next year.

It's unclear how the mid-major conference's move will affect the rest of the college football landscape, since most FBS conferences are opting to go ahead with modified schedules bereft of non-conference games, and the so-called Power Five Conferences (ACC, Big 10, SEC, PAC-12, and Big 12) have a lot more money at stake. But players have at least raised the possibility that they'd be willing to sit out the season if they aren't satisfied with health and safety protocols. The MAC's decision could put pressure on the other conferences to bolster their plans, if not call off the season outright. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

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