On “Opting Out”…

| July 31st, 2020

Tuesday, Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 NFL season. He wasn’t alone. He was joined by essentially the whole of the New England Patriots.

So why are players punching out of this season? A few things to remember about Covid-19.

First, this disease disproportionately impacts black and brown communities and roughly 70% of NFL players are black. While most of these young men will be unaffected by the disease, we still don’t know what the long-term impacts on the body come from the diagnosis.

Second, it’s not only about the health of the players themselves. These are young men and they have parents and grandparents dealing with the exact comorbidities that make them gravely susceptible to this virus. And cutting off from those relatives for a five-month period is simply a non-starter for most.

When a receiver in peak physical condition is exposed to the virus, he’ll likely see little to no health impact. When his diabetic mother is exposed, her life is at risk. That’s the decision these athletes face heading into 2020.

Does it suck for teams and fans? Of course it does. The NFL’s tight salary cap does not allow for depth at most positions. When Goldman opts out of the coming season, there isn’t another Goldman in the wings.

Does it suck for writers like me? It sure does. It’s getting a awfully difficult to engage this season with any real intensity when it feels like we’re one bad news story from the whole thing collapsing.

And what happens if some seriously-impactful players (i.e. quarterbacks) opt out?When rumors circulated in league circles Monday morning about Nick Foles possibly opting out, I was completely deflated. I don’t believe the Bears can win anything with Mitch Trubisky. The season was over; another Covid casualty. (Hopefully those rumors will continue to be untrue.)

Opting out is understandable from the player perspective. But it also comes with the risk of invalidating the season to some degree. And if not invalidating it, certainly devaluing it.

As of now, the opt outs have been relatively minor outside of New England. But will that change in the coming days?

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