On Wednesday December 2nd, 2020, we were treated to an NFL matinee via the Steelers hosting the Ravens at Heinz Field. While a mid-week NFL game may seem like a treat, the story of how we arrived at that point is not tasty.
Originally schedule as the nightcap for Thanksgiving Day, the NFL made the decision Thanksgiving Eve to push the game to 1:15p Sunday afternoon in response to four consecutive days of positive COVID tests within the Ravens’ organization. On Thanksgiving Day reports emerged of more players testing positive, one being quarterback Lamar Jackson, bringing the total to 11 positive tests. Friday the 27th, the NFL announced that the game had been moved to Tuesday December 1st. On Saturday November 28th, the Ravens conducted widespread rapid testing to grasp the weight of the situation and discovered six more positive tests, bringing the team total to 17. Sunday November 29th, despite the rise in cases, Baltimore continues preparation for a Tuesday tilt, formulating a plan to limit the potential spread by utilizing two separate flights along with playing and traveling on the same day – then Willie Snead tests positive. Monday November 30th, the NFL finally intervenes and forbids Baltimore from practicing as planned the day before the game, but more positive tests roll in, so the NFL moves the game to Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday December 1st, the Ravens have 21 players on the COVID-reserve list. Wednesday December 2nd at 3:40p the game is played in its entirety.
At no point did the Baltimore organization or the NFL have this internal outbreak under control yet at no point was the game being cancelled an option. The most frightening part, however, is that the guidelines set by the NFL for maintaining “player safety” were met. One could put oneself to sleep reading the legalese of those guidelines, but that they were met in this scenario paints a vivid picture highlighting the lack of concern the NFL has for said “player safety.” How is it safe for an organization with an outbreak the magnitude of Baltimore’s to board planes together, fly to another state and play a full-contact game where social distancing is near-impossible? How does playing that game allow the NFL to put their player’s safety ahead of all other interests? The answer: it doesn’t. What it does do, however, is allow the NFL to boast that through 12 Weeks they have played 100% of their games. It allows the NFL to paint a façade of success and containment for their advertisers which, in turn, indicates no interruption in ad spots and, ultimately, discredits thoughts of pulling back advertising dollars.
All this latest fail by the NFL does is prove three things: 1) The NFL could not care less about the safety of its players, 2) the almighty dollar rules all, even common sense in regards to public health and 3) the players who chose to opt out of this season saw this for what it was before it began. The NFL MUST do better.