The NFL Is America’s League Because it Has no Covid Plan—Just Vibes

The NFL has mimicked America’s handling of Covid and it’s been just as disastrous.

Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

The NFL is three-quarters of the way through its 2020 season, and there’s no debating that its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been an unmitigated disaster. Sunday, a rookie wide receiver for the Denver Broncos had to play quarterback—because every other quarterback on the team had to quarantine. The Ravens vs. Steelers game, originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, keeps getting pushed back like Detox; 18 Ravens players have tested positive, as have multiple Steelers players. Buffalo Bills tight end Tommy Sweeney is missing the entire season with myocarditis, a heart condition linked to Covid. The NFL’s muddled, disorganized plan has needlessly endangered its players, and yet the season continues while willfully ignoring safer protocols.

The NFL has spent the last few years jostling with the NBA for American pop culture supremacy. By now, though, there’s no question that the NFL is the true American tradition—from its silencing of Black protest to its dismissal of a deadly pandemic, the league encapsulates Americana at its worst.

The NBA and NHL established bubbles that kept them Covid-free in their postseasons. Major League Baseball had its own disastrous Covid moments, but at least shortened its season. The NFL has simply gone with “business as usual” for its philosophy, with Covid protocols that don’t seem to be doing much beyond preserving its owners’ pockets. The NFL didn’t so much as even imagine a bubble, and I haven’t seen a single good reason why they couldn’t have tried a season with eight four-team bubbles or four eight-team bubbles.

But this is America. And this is football. The NFL, like the country it embodies, is an empire too big to fail. The league feels like it’s Teflon. Goodell and his crew survived CTE (so far), (sorta) weathered the backlash from blackballing Colin Kaepernick, and swatted away fake protests from Trump supporters. The first two issues represent a league that doesn’t care about the people most likely to be afflicted by the pandemic—even though those people are the ones making the league its money. Without its players, the league doesn’t function, and yet it treats them as the most expendable. Again. America.

I haven’t paid much attention to the NFL since Kaepernick was blackballed for being absolutely correct about race in America, but I’ve been glued to the league’s happenings this year for fear that one day we’ll get the news that a player is on a ventilator fighting for his life. Watching the NFL have the same disregard for human life that the grossly mismanaged country has is wild to watch, especially when other organizations are doing so much better by simply giving a damn about its players.

Football has prided itself on being America’s sport. And nothing speaks to that branding like a league that treats its populace with the same carelessness that the current administration has for its residents. The result is a life-threatening catastrophe that could have all been avoided.

At least now Donald Trump can relate to the NFL again.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us

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