NFL officials and college athletic departments have been busy roadmapping how their football seasons will look this year. But according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the sport may not be safe to return unless it is played in a “bubble”-like environment.
Fauci criticized plans for the professional and college seasons, which are on schedule to play out as usual with teams traveling between markets for games albeit some potential changes within the stadiums. He argued that football may not happen unless those plans change and allow games to take place in one hub.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble – insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day – it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had previously outlined scenarios for the NFL specifically and claimed certain “feasible” situations include allowing negative-tested players to take the field in empty stadiums, or perhaps allowing limited seating in certain communities. However, he maintained that the coronavirus itself would dictate the best status for moving forward with games.
Dr. Allen Sills, chief medical officer for the NFL, responded to Fauci’s claims saying that the league is doing everything in its power to mitigate risk through testing and safety protocols.
“We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem,” Sills said. “Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”
Sills added that the NFL’s plan is built off guidance from health experts as well as other major sports leagues. Unlike the NFL however, the NBA and NHL will resume their seasons in centralized locations. The NBA agreed to play limited regular season games before beginning playoffs at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. Meanwhile, the NHL is jumping right into playoffs with two hub locations yet to be determined housing competition for both the Western and Eastern Conferences.