The sports world is slowly recognizing what most people have now recognized in their everyday lives: COVID isn’t going away, and with vaccines, it poses little threat. But this slow return to normal doesn’t need to be so slow. It’s well past time for the sports world to move on.
The NBA reduced the mandated quarantine time for vaccinated players and coaches who are asymptomatic from 10 days to six. The NFL is now following the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reducing the quarantine time from 10 days to five for all players, including the very few unvaccinated players left in the league. The NFL had previously ended the requirement for all players to be regularly tested, but that had done little to stop positive tests from sidelining players.
It is progress, but it is unnecessarily and unbearably slow. Professional and collegiate athletes are simply not at risk from serious bouts with the virus. Fully vaccinated athletes, which make up around 95% of American professional sports leagues now, are at even less of a risk. It is good that these protocols are being reduced, but they should be eliminated entirely.
Five college football bowl games have already been canceled because of COVID outbreaks, including the Holiday Bowl, which was canceled just hours before kickoff. College football players, who are between the ages of 18-23 and are among the fittest people in the country, are at less risk than nearly any group, even if all of them were unvaccinated.
It does not need to be this way. These acts are all performative, and they are out of step with the level of normalcy most people are living through. Even in California, which reimplemented a mask “mandate” two weeks ago, I have yet to walk into any store or facility where I was asked to wear a mask. Aside from children, who are being governed by anti-science zealots, most people have moved on.
Sports leagues should follow suit. There are few areas of life, if any, where the people involved have a higher vaccination rate and are at lower risk from the coronavirus. We have seen 21 months of cancellations and postponements, nearly a year of them occurring after the vaccine had become readily available. This isn’t just about athletes, but about staff and businesses who rely on games and events like the canceled Holiday Bowl.
Sports leagues should end the charade, because most people by now see it for the performative panic that it is.