After tapping out of UFC 249 last month when ESPN and Disney placed Dana White in a financial submission hold, the event will proceed tonight. Even though one of the fighters has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ronald Souza is out. And everyone else is in. And that’s what will happen with sports in the age of COVID-19.
California governor Gavin Newsom, who could see his state’s teams play in other states this season if he won’t let them play there, recently raised the question of what will happen if a key NFL player tests positive. And the answer will be the same as it was for the UFC: The player who tests positive will be shut down, quickly and decisively, and everyone else will proceed as usual.
That’s why readily available and efficient diagnostic testing will become so critical to the NFL. Every team facility will essentially need an airlock at the front door, into which every player, coach, etc. will enter and take a test. If the test is negative, the door will open. If the test is positive, the quarantine procedures will activate.
The biggest potential flaw becomes false negatives. If a person who has the virus tests as not having the virus and if that person passes through the airlock and enters the Petri dish that the locker room, one person with the virus could quickly become 20 or 30 or more.
With 32 teams playing 16 games and conducting multiple practices per week, it’s inevitable that players will test positive. It could be inevitable that one of those infected players tests negative and, in turn, infects others.
Presumably, the NFL has considered this possibility. Presumably, the NFL has a plan for that eventuality. Hopefully, the NFL will have effective procedures for ensuring that anyone who has the virus will be quickly detected and removed from the team long enough to ensure that the virus won’t spread like wildfire through his team and, even worse, into another team if the player with the virus ends up playing in a game.