September 28, 2020

Opinion: The NFL is now essential

The National Football League will kick off their season on Sept. 10. When the sport does return, it will offer another kind of “essential service.”

On Sept. 10, National Football League (NFL) players, coaches and staff become essential workers. Following a summer marked by civil unrest, a global pandemic and a vicious primary election season, these athletes are missed more than ever. 

As much as we wish this pandemic would just go away, we are living with it for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has become our new normal as we return to work and school. Despite the burden of a pandemic we are all carrying, theaters remain closed, bars are unsafe, and baseball and basketball just does not cut it for Americans. The NFL is America’s most watched sport. It could not come back at a better time. 

Nearly one month ago on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, acclaimed sports analyst Colin Cowherd leveled with Maher about what these athletes will be facing. 

“We’re gonna have a lot of players test positive, let’s not freak out,” Cowherd said. 

Cowherd asserted there will be players that will test positive, but the NFL will make it through. 

Sixty-six players opted to not play for the season since the NFL announced the season would proceed. There are considerable risks for the players and coaches that will be present on those grass and AstroTurf fields. Coaches, such as Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, fall within the high risk age range for the coronavirus. On May 3, Dr. Gerald Glisson, half-brother of Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry, died from the coronavirus. 

Despite the potentially life-threatening health risks, the NFL season is proceeding as planned—and it will be the high point in the midst of a second wave. According to a poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Americans’ happiness is the lowest it has been in 50 years. This is precisely why the NFL is about to kickoff the most culturally important season it has ever had. In every point of our life, we are reminded by the pandemic and its tertiary effects. This is precisely why on Sept. 10 the NFL will become an essential service. 

When President Trump declared a national emergency, the country rallied around frontline workers such as nurses, doctors and retail and fast food workers. While everyone else went home, they kept the production and distribution of food moving, kept our people healthy and fought against the pandemic from the front lines. We may have hoped  their sacrifices would lead us to a future in which we returned to a normal summer. A summer where theaters opened and bars were safe, or where you could attend a nice baseball game on a cool, late evening. But it did not happen. We all became essential as we returned to work and school in an attempt to provide for ourselves as the world seemingly burned around us. When the NFL returns, instead of providing us with a traditional “essential service,” their service deals with the morale and hope of a whole nation. The nation will drown out the pandemic and tune in for this season with eagerness and a sense of relief. That is the essential service these young athletes and NFL staff are about to provide, and I am thankful.

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