NFL Mask Rules Absurdity
The National Football League (NFL) has jumped with fervor into establishing and enforcing mandates that players and coaches wear masks in the name of countering coronavirus. The NFL is taking this action despite it not being demonstrated that masks provide any net protection against coronavirus infection, and despite the fact that coronavirus does not pose a major risk of death or even serious sickness for most people.
Indeed, most professional sports players, being young and in great physical shape, should probably be more concerned about the risks of being hit by lightning than of being infected with coronavirus.
Adam Shefter, writing Sunday at ESPN, presented a recent mask dictate from the NFL:
The NFL sent out a memo to all teams on Nov. 3 with updated COVID-19 protocols that stressed: ‘All players and staff must wear masks or double-layered gaiters in the locker room on gameday — prior to the game, during halftime, and post-game.’
Fail to adhere to such an NFL mask dictate and the NFL can take away draft picks from teams and impose six-figure fines on teams and coaches. Discussing potential NFL discipline arising from the NFL reviewing video of New Orleans Saints players, some of whom were maskless, and their head coach celebrating in their locker room after a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, Shefter notes that the NFL is likely to react with “stiff fines and the loss of a draft pick, similar to the action the NFL took against the Raiders earlier this month, when Las Vegas was fined $500,000, head coach Jon Gruden was fined $150,000 and the franchise was stripped of a sixth-round pick for COVID-19 protocol violations.”
Even supposing masks provide some protection from coronavirus, it is absurd to impose mask wearing requirements on football players who have always faced much greater health risks from their games and practices. Football is a sport where competitors crash into each other intentionally with maximum force. They also tackle and are tackled while running or jumping. Given the nature of the game, it is not surprising for injured players to be carried off the field on stretchers, players to need surgery for their football injuries, and players to suffer long-term injuries from their football competition, including brain damage from hits to the head.
For various reasons — paychecks, competitive spirit, and love for the game, included — individuals risk major injuries to play professional football and to compete before at the high school and college levels. It is downright insulting to demand that these great risk-takers put on masks for some phantom protection from coronavirus that, should they become infected with it, is likely to cause them no to minor sickness.