NFL and NBA lead new epidemics of Covid in sports

An NFL preseason game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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As cases of Covid increase, professional sports leagues are feeling the impact again, resulting in postponements and star players missing matches.

More than 100 people from the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have adopted health and safety protocols this week.

The NFL alone had more than 70 players testing positive for the Covid cases on Monday and Tuesday, and is on track to surpass the 72 positive cases reported by the league on December 2 for the period between November 14 and November 27. Seven teams are now in improved mitigation protocols, which require more testing and stricter prevention rules. In addition, a member of the Washington football team has tested positive for the recently discovered omicron variant, which global health officials say spreads faster than any other strain of Covid.

While the leagues are unlikely to hit the panic button like in March 2020, when the NBA led the complete suspension of sports games, there are concerns about the rise of the omicron variant.

Here’s where the leagues stand after the Covid outbreaks this week.

Freeport, NY: Close-up of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster given to a person’s arm as the Mount Sinai South Nassau Vaxmobile visits Freeport High School in Freeport, New York on November 30, 2021.

Steve Pfost | News day | Getty Images

NFL imposes recall shots

The NFL tightens its Covid guidelines as it nears the end of its regular season and prepares for its first playoff rounds next month ahead of Super Bowl LVI on February 13 in Los Angeles.

An NFL memo sent on Monday and seen by CNBC said staff on Level 1 and 2 teams, including coaches and front office staff, were due to receive the recall by December 27.

At the same time, star players, including Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham, have been placed on the Covid roster, sending the teams into more intense protocols. After testing positive, the Rams joined the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and the Washington football team under enhanced league protocols. The guidelines require all players to undergo daily testing, conduct virtual team meetings, and enforce mask warrants. According to league rules, people who test positive are isolated, are not allowed at team facilities, and cannot have direct contact with players or staff.

“We continue to have discussions with our medical experts and the NFLPA,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to CNBC Wednesday morning. “As we did last year, we remain adaptable and flexible and will make changes based on the latest guidelines to ensure the health and safety of everyone associated with the NFL.”

The nfl provided for penalties for epidemics that resulted in game cancellations or postponements last July. He warned that teams could be required to pay any shortfall in the visiting team’s revenue pool or even lose matches. Players would also miss the in-game controls.

Despite the sanctions, some NFL teams and players have made headlines for violating NFL Covid policies this season.

Earlier this month, the league suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and two other players for three games without pay for lying about their Covid-19 vaccination status. And last month, Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers apologized for misleading the league about his vaccination status.

Rodgers tested positive for Covid and was also fined $ 14,650 for attending a party while not vaccinated, and the Packers were fined $ 300,000 for their violations.

The NFL is holding an owners meeting in Dallas this week, and league commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to tackle the Covid epidemic in the league further on Wednesday afternoon.

Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo # 13 greets Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine # 8 after the game at FTX Arena on December 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Michael Reaves | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Covid could ruin NBA momentum

Meanwhile, NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicted the league would see more positive cases when he spoke at a sports conference last October.

For now, he’s right.

On Monday, the NBA postponed two games with the Chicago Bulls following a Covid epidemic that affected 10 players. The Bulls had the required minimum of eight players available to play, but after discussions with Chicago health officials, the NBA has finally decided to reschedule the Bulls’ home game at United Center.

NBA protocols require players to sit at least 10 days or produce two negative tests in 24 hours before returning.

In addition to the Bulls, the Brooklyn The nets also had seven players, including All-Star James Harden, enter into health and safety protocols. The Milwaukee Bucks could also do without their star Giannis Antetokounmpo because of Covid, and the Los Angeles Lakers were careful after a recent positive test.

The NBA notes that 97% of the league is vaccinated, and behind the scenes there is an estimate of over 60% who have received the booster.

Still, positive cases of Covid could threaten the NBA at a crucial time.

The league highlighted its audience success this season ahead of its annual Christmas Day games next weekend. But these contests could be much less attractive if star players are absent.

One of the Christmas games the NBA is banking on next Saturday is the Brooklyn Nets vs. the Los Angeles Lakers on Disney-owned ABC. The cryptocurrency exchange also builds on this competition, as it marks the official start of its $ 700 million arena naming rights pact with the Lakers.

The league is in contact with clubs to ask for available dates to schedule further postponements, and there is speculation the NBA may start requiring proof of recalls among members of the media with access to players.

But there is no indication whether the NBA is ready to consider more extreme measures, such as suspending ticket sales for the courts and lower bowls. This would eliminate closeness to players and staff, which could help reduce the risk of transmission of Covid, but hurt attendance revenue and deal a blow to the league’s $ 10 billion projection this season.

“Like the rest of the country, and as our infectious disease specialists predicted, we have seen an increase in cases around the league,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement to CNBC. . “As we have done since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we will continue to monitor science and data and, in close partnership with the Players’ Association, update our protocols as our medical experts deem appropriate. . “

The NBA could also get help from local governments. More and more cities are requiring fans to show proof of vaccination before entering arenas. And local warrants could also cause unvaccinated players to get vaccinated or risk losing game checks.

Hockey has also been affected. the NHL postponed game in Chicago after the Calgary Flames suffered a Covid outbreak. The team were scheduled to face the Blackhawks on Monday

This is the third time this season that the NHL has postponed a game because of Covid. New York Islanders contest in philadelphia November 30 was also postponed after an outbreak on their list.

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