As the NFL and NFL Players Association work toward an agreement (hopefully) that will allow the 2020 season to be played, an important consideration cannot be forgotten: Any players or coaches who decide that they are not comfortable participating in the season as structured must be given a chance to opt out, without penalty.
Whether a player or coach (or anyone else who would be working directly in professional football) is concerned about his or her own health or the health of a family member or the potential impact of participation in the football business on public health generally, there must be a way for them to conscientiously choose to take a year off — without consequence.
The problem, of course, is that consequences will be unavoidable. Unlike season-ticket holders, who in some (hopefully all) cities won’t lose dibs on their seats if they skip 2020, players, coaches, trainers, etc. will be replaced in 2020. And the replacement could perform well enough to keep the job in 2021.
Then there’s the question of compensation. What will those who choose not to participate be paid? Will there be a separate fund to cover those who believe that it’s not right for them or for someone close to them or for anyone to play amid the pandemic? Or will it simply become a GoFundMe issue, with those who sacrifice NFL jobs in 2020 relegated to whatever others will give them to replace their income?
It’s a delicate issue for all involved, and it will be very difficult for players and/or coaches to choose to take a year off. Given these unprecedented circumstances, it will be critical for the NFL and its teams to handle these persons the right way.