Professional sports take varied approaches to protect against COVID-19


Leela Moreno

Different professional sports leagues are taking a variety of precautions to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19, while continuing to play.

When professional sports started up again during the pandemic, it was up to each league to address safety concerns and to take necessary precautions to prevent outbreaks of the virus. Different leagues ended up taking a variety of approaches. 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) brought 22 teams to Orlando, Florida and held the NBA playoffs and championship at the Walt Disney Resort with no fans present. After a 14-day quarantine and numerous COVID-19 tests, the 22 teams were split into three separate hotels. Some players were tested every day, but most testing depended on the previous day’s results. 

According to an article by ESPN, teams used video technology to help with contact tracing. Players could also choose to wear a “proximity alarm” that would alert them if they were within six feet of a player or staff member who was also wearing an alarm, or a “smart ring” that would track heart rate and temperature to detect early signs of the virus. Their strict protocol was successful.

“I think [the NBA] bubble obviously worked, and we have the evidence that they had zero cases,” said Portland Blazers Fan Rodrigo Breslin.

Their success was also recognized by players, employees, and fans like Breslin and more. 

“They did great for the situation we’re in,” said sophomore Cooper Lahti, also a Blazers fan. 

Unfortunately, the Major League Baseball (MLB) didn’t have the same success as the NBA, at least not initially.

“The regular season was a mess,” Breslin said.

 During a shortened continuation of the 2020 regular season that started in July, the MLB experienced many COVID-19 outbreaks early on. For the postseason, which is worth over $1 billion in revenue for the league, the MLB formed bubbles to ensure the playoffs could move forward. 

According to an article from Sporting News, Four cities– Arlington, TX, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA– held bubbles during the preliminary rounds of the postseason. The World Series was held in Arlington. The quarantine process began in the last week of the regular season. Players and team staff were restricted to hotels and tested daily, but they left isolation as they were eliminated from the playoffs, eventually leaving only two teams.

The National Football League (NFL) decided against placing teams in bubbles due to the size of the league and a consensus from players and ownership. The 2020 season is going on a 17-week schedule starting in September and ending in January. A bubble at the beginning of the season would have meant three months minimum that the players, coaches and team staff, which is upwards of 100 people per team, would be isolated from their families.

That is not to say that the NFL isn’t taking precautionary measures. Players are tested daily and are required to follow strict protocols. These protocols include wearing face coverings, maintaining a physical distance of six feet, healthy hand hygiene, no gatherings allowed outside of the team facility and league-wide video monitoring of staff and players, along with reduced time in locker rooms, virtual meetings and many other outlined precautions. The details of the precautions can be found in a memo the NFL sent to teams.  Compliance is mandatory for everyone, and, if violated, the team could face fines and potentially lose draft picks. 

While the NFL has seen some success with protocols there has also been outbreaks of COVID-19 within the league. The Raiders and Steelers have been reprimanded by the NFL for breaking protocols. The teams were fined and the Raiders became the first team to lose a draft pick. Many of the violations were due to the coach, Jon Gruden (who has been fined twice this season) for not wearing a mask, for the team attending a large gathering, and more.

Although with COVID-19 many of the  NFL’s supporters have stood by, “I think the NFL is doing a good job without the bubble,” said sophomore Carson Wacker. 

As professional sports seasons progress and cases rise, the precautionary measures put in place by the leagues will be put to the test.