A host of NFL players expressed deep concern in synchronized Twitter messages about returning to the gridiron amid COVID-19. Their messages came less than 24 hours after the league said it would start training camps on July 28 as scheduled and plan to play a full season in 2020/2021.
The players’ tweets came Sunday, July 19, two days after all 32 teams joined a conference call to discuss how the pandemic will affect the upcoming season.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted a statement from the league after that call, which seemed to spark the collective Twitter response from players. All of the players chose to use the hashtag “#WeWantToPlay” in their message.
“We will continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed jointly with the NFLPA, and based on the advice of leading medical experts, including review by the CDC,” read the statement. “We will address additional issues in a cooperative way. All decisions will be made in an effort to put us in position to play a full regular season and postseason culminating with the Super Bowl which is the shared goal of the clubs and the players.”
Patrick Mahomes is one of the people who sent a tweet after the statement was released and wrote, “Getting ready to report this week hoping the @NFL will come to agreement with the safe and right protocols so we can feel protected playing the sport we love #WeWantToPlay.”
The New Orleans Saints’ Malcolm Jenkins was another player who sent a message and said the league is ignoring safety advice from health professionals that they brought in.
“It blows my mind that the NFL is unwilling to follow the recommendations of their own experts regarding player health and safety,” tweeted Jenkins. “If we want to have a FULL season this year we need the NFL to listen to their experts! #WeWantToPlay.”
But despite Jenkins and other players suggesting that NFL’s doctors are advising the league not to start training camp later this month, the league’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said that safety measures are being set up for play to begin.
“We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem,” said Sills in a statement. “This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious disease experts, and other sports leagues.”
Sills’ statement comes after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the top scientist on the White House coronavirus task force, said play should not begin if teams didn’t remain in a bubble like the NBA and be tested almost daily.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble, insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day, it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told CNN on July 18. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
The Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson brought up his wife Ciara being pregnant with their second child as the reason he’s concerned about playing during the pandemic.
The couple already shares a 3-year-old daughter Sienna Princess Wilson, and Ciara has a 6-year-old named Future Zahir Wilburn with her ex-fiancé Future. She and Wilson announced the new pregnancy in January.
“I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start,” Wilson tweeted. “And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay.”
Other NFL players who participated in the group Twitter messages include the Atlanta Falcons’ Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman.
Reportedly, players can choose to sit out the upcoming season by stating so in a letter that must be submitted by Aug. 1. The player will then be locked into that decision and won’t be able to reverse it.
The league is still negotiating how players’ pay will be affected if they opt out. The NFL’s latest proposal, according to the NFL Network, is cutting each teams’ player costs by $40 million in salary cap and/or benefits for the upcoming season. But nothing has been finalized yet.