Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is right: No players and coaches should go back to team facilities until all players and coaches can go back.
Tomlin was talking about the NFL, whose uniform approach seems to be wavering. Commissioner Roger Goodell last month said no team would be allowed to reopen before any other, but he issued a memo last week indicating that each team might fend for itself.
The arrogance is breathtaking. No athlete or coach should return to any training facility anywhere and receive asymptomatic testing until every worker everywhere can receive asymptomatic testing.
Both the NBA and NFL initially will use daily temperature screenings before admitting players, coaches, and other workers, according to copies of memos acquired by The Inquirer. But it’s inevitable that, if a player, coach, or athletic trainer tests positive, every worker in the complex will be having swabs shoved up their noses. As they should. It’s how you stop the spread.
But that’s not fair. That’s not what happens at Subway and Starbucks. Joel Embiid and Carson Wentz might be rich and famous, but they’re no more important than you or me.
Similarly, the inequity among the franchises is obvious. No team in any sport should open before any other.
These are simple concepts.
The NFL has a chance to do the right thing, which, for the next few weeks, is nothing.
According to a copy of league memos obtained by The Inquirer, Phase One of the NFL reopening involves strict behavioral and staffing limitations; is limited to players who require continued rehab; and involves no asymptomatic testing.
The particulars of Phase Two will be discussed in a conference call among the 32 owners May 19. By the time Phase Two begins, tests could be cheap and plentiful.
The NBA, meanwhile, has already screwed this up.
Last weekend, in markets where the coronavirus lockdown was eased, the NBA allowed players to return to use their facilities.
Portland and Cleveland went back to work. This was unfair to the rest of the league. Worse, it was unfair to the rest of the population of the United States, most of which remains unable to return to work because of a lack of testing supplies. C.J. McCollum might be entertaining to watch, but he’s the very definition of a non-essential worker.
The league said that it would open practice facilities only where asymptomatic testing is available for at-risk health-care workers. That’s not good enough. Not by a long shot.
Right now, that’s not available virtually anywhere, including Portland and Cleveland.
I called the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline Monday. I was directed to the Cuyahoga County Department of Health, the county that holds both the city of Cleveland, where the Cavaliers play, and nearby Independence, where they train.
The Cuyahoga department told me I needed to display symptoms unless I was a health-care worker or over 65 years old.
Portland, meanwhile, reportedly remains weeks away from even relaxing the governor’s stay-at-home order, and the area still requires people to be symptomatic to get a test.
Denver relaxed its lockdown last week, but no asymptomatic testing is available in Denver County, where the Nuggets practice and play (though free asymptomatic testing is available in nearby Aurora and Wheat Ridge at STRIDE community health centers).
This is beyond improper. It is obscene. As several teams prepare to open their facilities this week and later this month, more than 81,000 people have died in America from COVID-19, including more than 4,000 since Friday.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s office is in New York City, where there still aren’t enough supplies to test the dead. How can you justify the Knicks using 100 tests a week?
How can you justify the Sixers using tests? Neither Philadelphia, where they play, nor Camden, where they practice, offers asymptomatic testing.
Sixers general manager Elton Brand suggested last week that the facility the team leases in Wilmington for its G League affiliate would be an option, but there’s no asymptomatic testing in Delaware, either.
A league source said Monday that most NBA franchises don’t have a clear plan to reopen and that teams are concerned with the optics of restarting in hot spots like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York, where any return to normalcy seems several weeks away.
Brand declined to comment Monday. The Eagles also declined to comment, citing Goodell’s most recent gag order.
No matter what comes next, it seems unlikely the Eagles, or any other NFL team, will experience anything resembling a normal offseason. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press two weeks ago that the NFL does not plan to use tests that you or I might need: “General public safety is first and foremost."
The NFL did not, however, clarify Monday whether some teams would be able to resume before others. The NBA did not respond to a request for comment.
You can’t blame the leagues for imperfect municipal protocols. These fluctuate from town to town, largely because of inconsistent availability of testing supplies. You can’t blame the NBA or the NFL for massive failures by the federal government, which has crippled the production and distribution of testing supplies.
You can, however, blame the leagues for their hubris. They might be popular, but they just aren’t that important.
Give it another month. By then, every single person in every single state might be able to get a test whenever they want it. In the meantime, all over the country, untested sanitation workers, meat packers, and mail carriers have to go to work and deal with coworkers and customers who have not been tested.
A recent poll suggested that 3 out of 4 Americans believe that restrictions are being eased too soon. Meanwhile, Tobias Harris gets tested twice a week so he can go to the gym and pretend to be Kobe?
I miss sports, too. On Saturday afternoon I watched a cornhole competition, then spent Saturday night watching UFC 249 -- so, basically, it was like three hours before an Eagles game at Veterans Stadium. But no matter how badly I want to see LeBron and James Harden travel up and down the court, jumping the gun isn’t immoral and selfish, it’s foolish, since we’re so close.
Quidel Corp., based in San Diego, last weekend got FDA approval for a rapid test that it hopes will test as many as 200,000 people every day and as many as a million within a few weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
At that point, Ben Roethlisberger and Ben Simmons can get tested both on their way in and out of the practice facilities for all I care.
But until that point, they should have to wait. Like you. And like me.