Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci outlined his path for a return to sports as part of an interview series with Peter Hamby of Snapchat. Fauci believes there is a way for professional sports to return over the summer, but only if extremely strict guidelines are followed — the biggest of which is playing without fans.
The lack of fans is the first of several measures that would need to be adopted by leagues in order to bring sports back with any modicum of safety. Fauci also insists the widespread, regular testing must be adopted — with controllable housing for players at hotels.
“Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. ... Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
There are logistic problems to this scenario as well. Housing over a thousand players and team staff in hotels might work in theory, but this also requires huge amounts of support staff from the hotels themselves, drivers, chefs — the list goes on. In order to adequately, and safely continue play these staff members would need to be subject to the same rigorous testing players are undergoing. That’s a hurdle that hasn’t been reached yet.
However, the efforts may be worth it. A Seton Hall poll conducted on April 9 showed 83 percent of people would be as, or even more, interested in continuing to watch sports broadcasts, even without fans present. A number that MLB and the NFL are surely aware of as they look for alternate plans to start play during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A return of sports is symbolic of a return to normalcy in a year that feels impossibly surreal. There is value in sports beyond another distraction when we are stuck at home. However, nobody’s life or health is worth the risk. The onus is now on leagues to work with health officials to find a safe and equitable way to allow professional athletes to continue competing in the games we love, and ensuring there is a support structure in place so this doesn’t collapse.
Here’s hoping they find a way.