by Dr. David Sanders
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United States and Canada, professional basketball and hockey were postponed indefinitely and Major League Baseball is at best contemplating a fan-less truncated season. Die-hard football fans are still hoping that any given Sunday the National Football League will do more than announce the 2020 schedule. It is hard to conceive of a scenario, even playing games without fans present, that a high contact sport such as football can meet continued requirements for social distancing this coming fall and winter.
“I think for us it doesn’t make any sense to play games unless it’s completely, 100 percent safe for us to go out there,” Kareem Jackson, a 10-year veteran who plays for the Denver Broncos, told reporters. “If there’s any threat of us being able to contract COVID in any way and spread it to our families or anybody else, it just doesn’t make sense.”
While it may be difficult to imagine an entire state or nation as an interconnected whole (let alone humanity) sports teams are an intriguing model for looking at how we are “family” and that everyone forms an integral part of a team. If there is no NFL season will the team concept hold—will everyone feel a responsibility to care for each other regarding their mental, emotional, spiritual and fiscal health?
The Denver Broncos franchise is valued at $3B with revenue in the $450M range and player salaries and expense at $230M. From security to concession stands, grounds crew to referees and cheerleaders it takes a village to operate the stadium and play the games. There are loyal fans who purchase tickets (gate receipts are less than 1/5 of the total revenue) and merchandise.
If the Denver Broncos were a smaller business they could apply for a loan to help pay for salaries and stadium maintenance. If there is no season how will the team pay salaries and take into consideration all the people (and a horse) that contribute to the team? Will ticket holders stay loyal and forego refunds (if not offered)? Will highly paid management, coaches and players take salary or bonus cuts so that the whole family is taken care of during a non-existent football season?
How many football teams and their fans will model the kind of caring that proclaims: We are all in this together. It starts with the perspective that a football team is not just the offense and defense, its everyone who makes any given Sunday possible, from the janitorial staff to the general manager. What would then be true for a football team can be applied to profit the rest of society–we are all in this together, responsible for each other.
P.S. Is this the year to experiment and introduce the NFFL, the National Flag Football League. Less players on the field, no helmets, no tackling and no traumatic brain injuries.