A Season Recap: The NFL and COVID-19

After a long and eventful season, the NFL has now officially completed an entire season of football during the most troubling of times. The National Football League took over 900,000 Covid tests for about 7,500 people each week and held their ground as America’s Favorite Sport. 

Every team this season had at least one person test positive for Covid-19 except for the Seattle Seahawks, with no positive test results across players, coaches, front office members, and equipment personnel. Using contract tracing technology from Kinexon SafeTag, a device that allowed for the NFL to track anyone who was in contact with someone who tested positive, each team was equipped with the resources to stay safe. 

The SafeTags had some interesting features, including having a loud alarm when people were too close together to ensure proper social distancing. 

Some of the other changes included reducing the maximum number of players that may travel to 62, not allowing on-field jersey swaps of opposing teams, and wearing masks on team buses. 

The NFL also implemented a tier system, with Tier 1 being players and personnel with direct access to players, Tier 2 as personnel in close proximity to players, and Tier 3 as personnel whose job responsibilities do not require close proximity to players. This helped further gauge who would have access to certain areas, and hopefully limit the spreading of unwanted germs. 

They were able to make it through the whole season without any cancellations and only postponed 5 of their 256 regular-season games, against all odds. In order to successfully achieve this goal, the NFL spent about $100 million to pull it all off. 

Darren waller and teammates breaking covid protocols (Las Vegas Recovery Center)

They were able to make back a lot of this money by fining players for their reckless actions during the season. Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was fined $30,000 and nine of his teammates were fined $15,000, each for breaking coronavirus protocols at a public charity event hosted by Waller’s foundation last week according to ESPN. During this time Clark County, Nevada had over 68,000 cases of Covid-19. 

Most notably the New Orleans Saints were fined $250,000  for not wearing proper face coverings during a game and also fined head coach Sean Payton $100,000 dollars for his improper protocol. These fines were also given to the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Las Vegas Raiders throughout the season. 

Amongst all of these improper protocols, the NFL gave high praise to front-line workers and emergency staff who were taking care of Covid -19 patients. The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, said, “We know that over the past year, these frontline workers have put their own lives at risk to the benefit of society and we owe them our ongoing gratitude.” 

Although Goodell continuously had high praise of frontline workers, he allowed the NFL to have live audiences at games this year, which puts more people in danger of contracting the Coronavirus. Including the playoffs, 43.9% of the NFL’s 269 completed games this season had an official attendance.

This year’s Super Bowl had 22,000 fans, with 7,500 being vaccinated healthcare workers. Many find it difficult to understand how Commissioner Goodell could speak so highly of health care workers and then allow 12,500 people to be put at risk of contracting the disease those workers are fighting against. 

Feb 7, 2021; Buccaneers fans party after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the super bowl (Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports)

According to ABC News, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, “video footage from some Tampa neighborhoods showed scores of people without masks, turning streets into dance floors and high-fiving and hugging friends and strangers with abandon.” 

For many, the celebrations of a Buccaneers win took precedence over safety, and Hillsborough County still has over 110,000 cases, and the percent of positive tests has increased since the Super Bowl. 

Now that the season is over, many wonder how the NFL will deal with the remnants of Covid-19 next year, and what the future holds for sports around the world.