By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL and NFLPA finally reached their agreement on COVID-19 rules and protocols for the forthcoming season. If it feels like this agreement was scrambled together in a rush at the last minute, well, the league only had five months to prepare for this moment, you know? So give them a break.

Anyway, included in the lengthy set of rules governing players is a list of “high-risk” activities in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. If players are found to have participated in any of the “high-risk” items, that player will be fined or suspended for committing conduct detrimental to the team.

Obviously, with a highly contagious virus ruining just about everything in this country, it’s sensible and necessary for the NFL to impose such rules. And certainly, with places like indoor night clubs and indoor bars and house parties being on the list of banned activities, the league is sending a loud and clear message that participation in events where the virus can easily be spread simply will not be tolderated.

Bravo, NFL. You’ve done what Major League Baseball should have done.

There is, however, one rather interesting inclusion on the list of banned activity — one that might raise an eyebrow or two to anybody paying close attention. Here’s the fifth item on the list:

“Attending a professional sporting event (other than applicable NFL games or events) unless the player is seated in a separated seating section, such as a suite or owner’s box, is wearing PPE, and there are no more than 10 people in that separate seating section.”

The NFL … is banning players … from attending … professional sporting events … because … the NFL … believes … that attending sporting events … can exacerbate the spread … of the novel coronavirus.

That’s fascinating.

Of course, the NFL made sure to point out that “applicable NFL games or events” are exempt from such danger. After all, this is the mighty NFL, where the rules of society — and science — don’t apply. Sure, attending another sport is dangerous, but attending an NFL event — which for players means smashing into one another for a few hours — is completely and entirely safe.

And if you saw this inclusion on the list and figured that it meant there’s no way in heck that the league will still be trying to sell as many tickets to fans in 2020, then you are likely mistaken. Only the Jets and Giants have ruled out fans from attending games in 2020. The rest of the league is putting together various contingency plans to try to get as many fans into their buildings as possible, so long as local governments allow it.

Out in Seattle, the plans include the ultra-safe scenario of “leaving entire rows or every other seat empty.”

“Every other seat” may not exactly fly in terms of spread-of-contagion prevention, but fear not: The NFL is being as safe as possible.

Well at least that’s taken care of. Phew.

Granted, the NFL only believes it’s safe for players to attend sporting events if those players are in a suite, with a maximum of 10 people, all of whom must be wearing face coverings. Fans? Well, the safety rules are different for fans … because their money goes toward the NFL’s bottom line. While sitting in the stands among the commoners may be dangerous for NFL players, it’s perfectly safe — ehhhh, it’s safe enough — for the paying customer.

That’s the message from the NFL as the league tries to navigate the ever-complicated waters of playing sports during a national pandemic. Players attending a sporting event? Can’t risk it. Too dangerous. Paying fans attending NFL games? Let’s take some precautions but also let’s stuff as many of ’em into the building as we’re legally allowed to do.

As is the case with damn near everything involving sports during this terrible time in American history, you must always carry with you some hand sanitizer, a facial covering, and a strong dedication to cognitive dissonance if you want to make it through the day and/or follow the day-to-day goings-on of the National Football League.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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