Opinion: Sports arent playing offense on Covid


Covid-19 isn’t “back” — because it never left the arena. Kyrie Irving isn’t back, because, well, just as soon as the Brooklyn Nets front office decided that maybe it was, after all, OK for him to be an unvaccinated part-time member of a team that plays in a city that requires vaccination, he went into NBA health and safety protocols alongside nine of his teammates.
Amy BassAmy Bass
Kevin Durant is one of those teammates, telling The Athletic that he had, once again, contracted the virus. In March 2020, Durant, of course, was one of the very first athletes in the United States to test positive.
Back then, we learned a lot about this novel coronavirus through the lens of sport. We studied how it spread after some 40,000 soccer fans from the small city of Bergamo, Italy, screamed their heads off — and sent thousands of respiratory droplets into the crowded air — as their beloved team made its debut in the Champions League. The 200,000 cases in Northern Italy that soon followed demonstrated to scientists, who dubbed that soccer match a “biological bomb,” a great deal of what they needed to know.
Sport also showed us the importance of shutting things down to slow the spread: The NBA went dark, followed by the disappearance of March Madness, the Boston Marathon and Wimbledon, and the unprecedented postponement of an Olympic Games.
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As sport crawled back to us via bubbles and spectator-less stadiums, shortened seasons and cardboard fans, its vast resources laid the foundation for how the rest of us might learn to safely return to things like work and school amid an ongoing global pandemic. The starts and stops have been frequent, to be sure — the positive cases that came out of this past summer’s All-Star game, especially from teams who never hit MLB’s 85% vaccination goal — was a big red flag that the league could have done a whole lot better (and yes, my beloved Red Sox, I am talking to you). But has any other entity on this planet had more access and resources than sports leagues to put best practices, such as widespread and consistent surveillance testing, into play?
And yet now, with the Omicron variant spreading the virus in ways we haven’t seen in about a year, perhaps it isn’t just that sport is telling us what we need to know about the virus. The virus, too, is telling us an awful lot about sports. The return of Irving, if it does, indeed, happen, in the midst of the outbreak in New York City, throws a wrench into the NBA’s claim that it wants its players to raise awareness on the critical importance of Covid-19 precautions. The league touts a vaccination rate of over 90%. And yet: How can they sell Irving rejoining the team that cast him aside just a few months ago?
Meanwhile, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be making headlines right now for tying Brett Favre’s franchise record as his Green Bay Packers clinched the division title and grabbed a playoff berth — but he remains, as far as we know, unvaccinated. And say what you want about Irving — at least he hasn’t lied about it.
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It’s also telling us that while no professional sports league mandated vaccination, the WNBA, which last June became the first to achieve the 99% vaccination mark, set the standard for what we need to do to get it done, with the players association taking the lead and emphasizing education and communication.
But with Omicron, even two-dose vaccination doesn’t seem to be enough. While some colleges, such as basketball powerhouse Syracuse, have already issued booster mandates before students return for the spring semester, and the Beijing Olympics will require unvaccinated teams to do 21 days of “hard quarantine” upon arrival, professional sports leagues are apparently only starting to double down stricter protocols now that they are yet again looking at postponements and cancellations. The NHL, which asserts that all but four of its athletes are vaccinated, is back to mask mandates; the NFL is mandating booster shots for coaches and staff, but not players; and the NBA sent a memo urging boosters.
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playerInstance,containerClassId = ‘#’ + containerId;CNN.VideoPlayer.handleInitialExpandableVideoState(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, CNN.pageVis.isDocumentVisible());if (CNN.Features.enableMobileWebFloatingPlayer &&Modernizr &&(Modernizr.phone || Modernizr.mobile || Modernizr.tablet) &&CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(containerId) === ‘fave’ &&jQuery(containerClassId).parents(‘.js-pg-rail-tall__head’).length > 0 &&CNN.contentModel.pageType === ‘article’) {playerInstance = FAVE.player.getInstance(containerId);mobilePinnedView = new CNN.MobilePinnedView({element: jQuery(containerClassId),enabled: false,transition: CNN.MobileWebFloatingPlayer.transition,onPin: function () {playerInstance.hideUI();},onUnpin: function () {playerInstance.showUI();},onPlayerClick: function () {if (mobilePinnedView) {playerInstance.enterFullscreen();playerInstance.showUI();}},onDismiss: function() {CNN.Videx.mobile.pinnedPlayer.disable();playerInstance.pause();}});/* Storing pinned view on CNN.Videx.mobile.pinnedPlayer So that all players can see the single pinned player */CNN.Videx = CNN.Videx || {};CNN.Videx.mobile = CNN.Videx.mobile || {};CNN.Videx.mobile.pinnedPlayer = mobilePinnedView;}if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (jQuery(containerClassId).parents(‘.js-pg-rail-tall__head’).length) {videoPinner = new CNN.VideoPinner(containerClassId);videoPinner.init();} else {CNN.VideoPlayer.hideThumbnail(containerId);}}},onContentEntryLoad: function(containerId, playerId, contentid, isQueue) {CNN.VideoPlayer.showSpinner(containerId);},onContentPause: function (containerId, playerId, videoId, paused) {if (mobilePinnedView) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleMobilePinnedPlayerStates(containerId, paused);}},onContentMetadata: function (containerId, playerId, metadata, contentId, duration, width, height) {var endSlateLen = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0).length;CNN.VideoSourceUtils.updateSource(containerId, metadata);if (endSlateLen > 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.fetchAndShowRecommendedVideos(metadata);}},onAdPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType) {/* Dismissing the pinnedPlayer if another video players plays an Ad */CNN.VideoPlayer.dismissMobilePinnedPlayer(containerId);clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onAdPause: function (containerId, playerId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType, instance, isAdPause) {if (mobilePinnedView) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleMobilePinnedPlayerStates(containerId, isAdPause);}},onTrackingFullscreen: function (containerId, PlayerId, dataObj) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleFullscreenChange(containerId, dataObj);if (mobilePinnedView &&typeof dataObj === ‘object’ &&FAVE.Utils.os === ‘iOS’ && !dataObj.fullscreen) {jQuery(document).scrollTop(mobilePinnedView.getScrollPosition());playerInstance.hideUI();}},onContentPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, event) {var playerInstance,prevVideoId;if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreEpicAds’);}clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentReplayRequest: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);var $endSlate = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0);if ($endSlate.length > 0) {$endSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–active’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’);}}}},onContentBegin: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (mobilePinnedView) {mobilePinnedView.enable();}/* Dismissing the pinnedPlayer if another video players plays a video. */CNN.VideoPlayer.dismissMobilePinnedPlayer(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.mutePlayer(containerId);if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘removeEpicAds’);}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoSourceUtils.clearSource(containerId);jQuery(document).triggerVideoContentStarted();},onContentComplete: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreFreewheel’);}navigateToNextVideo(contentId, containerId);},onContentEnd: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(false);}}},onCVPVisibilityChange: function (containerId, cvpId, visible) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, visible);}};if (typeof configObj.context !== ‘string’ || configObj.context.length 0) {configObj.adsection = window.ssid;}CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibrary(configObj, callbackObj, isLivePlayer);});CNN.INJECTOR.scriptComplete(‘videodemanddust’);