illustration by Ren Rader
The National Football League (NFL) fined five teams and coaches for not wearing face masks, resulting in more than $1 million in fines. The New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers were all fined after their head coaches were not wearing masks during the games.
Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders head coach, said in a post-game interview, “I’m doing my best. I’ve had the virus…But I’m calling the plays. I just want to communicate these situations. I apologize.”
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints head coach, also had the coronavirus in March. He reacted to the fine, saying, “I’ve just gotta do a better job when we’re not on offense. It’s okay if you’re pulling it down while you’re calling plays but what happens is I get caught up in the game and half the time forget that it’s down, so I’ve just gotta be more diligent with it.”
As more players and coaches test positive for the coronavirus, it begs the question if there are enough precautions being taken to minimize the risk of spreading the disease. Two games were postponed in week four and two more are postponed for week five as a result of players getting the coronavirus. The Tennessee Titans have been banned from their training facility for ten days, and three players on the New England Patriots have tested positive for the disease.
However, fining teams and coaches for not wearing a mask during the games is hypocritical of the NFL, considering the NFL decided to have the season despite being in the midst of a global pandemic and is even allowing teams and local governments to have fans in the stadiums. In week one, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos allowed fans. Although fans were required to wear masks unless they were eating or drinking, it was obvious when the camera panned over the crowd that many fans were not following the guidelines and that the rules were not being enforced. As more teams begin to allow fans in their stadiums, it is crucial that social distancing and mask-wearing are enforced, especially in indoor stadiums.
Unlike fans, NFL players and coaches are tested for COVID-19 daily, except on game days. Obviously, players are not able to wear masks while playing, but requiring coaches to wear masks also makes it harder for them to communicate to players, especially when they are trying to make calls in the moment and focus on the game. When the NFL decided to play this year without a bubble, they should have prepared for the possibility that wearing a mask would hinder coaches’ ability to do their jobs and focus on the game. Additionally, it is hard to force coaches to wear masks for the entirety of the game when players are not able to wear them and pose just as much of a risk of spreading the virus.
Coaches should wear masks when they can to set the right example for those watching at home as well as to reduce the spread. Although everyone should follow safety precautions to the best of their ability, fining coaches is unreasonable. The NFL already decided to put profit above people’s lives when they decided to hold the NFL season amidst a pandemic. When the NFL made the decision to allow teams and city governments to make their own rules regarding whether or not fans will be allowed, they further showed their interests. Fining coaches and teams for not wearing masks is just another way for the NFL to make money at a time when a limited number of fans are allowed. While everyone does have a part in stopping the spread, it is unfair to place the blame on coaches and individuals rather than the organization as a whole.