PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – MAY 28
By Leo Haggerty

PLAYERS NEED TO THINK TWICE

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

My last column dealt with how the restart of competitive sports in the United States would effect the fans.  Today, I want to concentrate specifically on the players and, to be honest, they really need to contemplate what may transpire if it comes to fruition before they jump into this fray.

I have not heard of one American professional sports organization that will be playing in all their venues.  It appears to be that one central location, or a few satellite spots, will serve as the site for all league events.

Now, that format has some inherent problems.  So, let’s carefully examine what this would mean to a player.

Below are some of the major points of emphasis, at least in my mind, that the players association in each pro sport has to have resolved.  And, believe me, it needs to be in writing before it’s, as our Senior Writer Rob Kriete would say, game on.

Will the players be sequestered for the remainder of the season in a compound of some sorts?  If they are, will family members be allowed to stay with them?  How many family members will be allowed to stay?  What constitutes a family member?  How often will players be tested for Covid-19?  If a player tests positive, how long will he be kept out of competition?  If multiple players test positive, how long will that team be kept out of competition?  Will players be forbidden to leave the compound?

As you can see, these are monumental issues with no simple solutions.  And, once the league and the players association come to an agreement, some of the rules may be unenforceable.

Let me give you an example.  Do you honestly think there’s a security guard that’s going to tell LeBron James or Tom Brady or Alex Ovechkin or Mike Trout that they cannot leave the compound where they are being sequestered?  The answer isn’t no but hell no if that individual wants to remain employed.

Players association leaders have to articulate, in a crystal clear manner, what the rules and regulations will for the resumption of play.  They also have to explain, with that exact same clarity, the ramifications as to what will take place when, and you know it’s going to occur, someone tests positive for Covid-19.

No way should any group accept the answer of well, we’ll decide how to deal with it if it happens.  There has to be a plan in place for all contingencies before it’s game time.

Then, players need to vote whether they can abide by the restrictions set by the league as well as the penalties that will occur if they deviate from the norm.  That may be a hard sell depending upon the extent of the rules.

Remember, we’re dealing with grown men who are superstars.  For the most part, there a very few situations where they are told no but, this time, they are going to have to police themselves

That’s easier said than done but it is possible.  Granted, it’s going to be hard but, in the immortal word of Tom Hanks in League Of Their Own, if it was easy, everyone would do it.