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MLB & NFL Players Keep Testing Positive For COVID-19 As Sports Barely Start To Return

The NFL reported 21 players tested positive since training camp started this week, and 17 people in the MLB have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

The Miami Marlins play the Philadelphia Phillies opening day on July 24, 2020 | Getty Images
The Miami Marlins play the Philadelphia Phillies opening day on July 24, 2020 | Getty Images

Professional athletes and staff are already testing positive for coronavirus mere days after baseball season started and football players headed to training camp. NFL players are starting to opt out of playing in 2020, and some experts are saying that the league needs to set a better example and rethink starting the season. 

Major League Baseball saw a disastrous start to its audience-free, shortened season on July 23, as COVID-19 cases started rapidly spreading among players and staff. The Miami Marlins postponed its season Tuesday after 15 players and two members of the staff tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports.

In a statement Tuesday, Marlins’ CEO Derek Jeter said the team and staff members would isolate in Philadelphia until further notice. The team has been in Philadelphia since last week, playing the Phillies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Two games against the Baltimore Orioles were postponed this week, and the New York Yankees postponed its games against the Phillies out of an abundance of caution. 

Before the home opener last week, Washington Nationals’ player Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19. According to the team’s website, Soto was asymptomatic, and his positive test did not prevent any of the other members from playing.

On Monday, Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria was self-isolating in his hotel after not feeling well. The team said it is awaiting his COVID-19 test result. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told Good Morning America that the MLB’s outbreak could “put [the season] in danger.” 

“I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day-by-day basis,” Fauci said. 

Houston Astros Manager Dusty Baker speaks to umpires during Tuesday night's game | Getty Images

While the coronavirus was spreading through the MLB, the National Football League started its training camps this week, kicking off the first leg of the 2020 season.

But the season faced a similar challenge as the MLB; as of Tuesday, 21 players have so far tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of training camp, according to the NFL Players Association. At least 107 players tested positive during the offseason, the NFLPA said. 

The NFL gave its players the choice to opt out of the 2020 season for safety reasons and, according to the league, players have seven days after the agreement was signed on July 24 to opt out of the season. The players will be given a stipend of $150,000. So far, more than 25 players have chosen to opt out. 

Green Bay Packers receiver Devin Funchess took the NFL’s opt-out deal and said in a statement that his “closest family members have experienced the life-threatening impact of COVID-19 firsthand,” so he decided not to play this season for their safety and his. 

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While some players have chosen safety over career during the COVID-19 crisis, which continues to infect thousands of people daily in the U.S., some experts are saying that the NFL should cancel the season altogether — especially after the MLB’s spike in infections. 

A former NFL player and doctor told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday night that the NFL needs to either delay the season or cancel it altogether. Dr. Myron Rolle is a third-year neurosurgery resident and previously played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. 

Rolle said the NFL needs to act as a “a leader at the forefront and put the players' safety and their families' safety as a premium.”

“If the NFL wants to be part of the community, I think it needs to be responsible and think about what is actually happening in the community right now,” Rolle said. “A pandemic happening and infection rates going up and hospitalizations occurring, PPE at high demand.”

Rolle also explained the difficulty of social distancing in a contact sport like football, in comparison to baseball, a game in which players are more spread out by comparison yet still became infected. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter that the safety of players, staff, fans, and communities has been the league’s highest priority. 

“In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, we have navigated the time carefully, thoughtfully and in partnership with the NFL Players Association with a shared goal of playing a healthy and complete 2020 season,” Goodell wrote. “Our planning has followed the lead of medical experts and public health officials, including the CDC, the White House Task Force, governors and state health officials.” 

Meanwhile, in the NBA, the league’s players’ association announced Wednesday that of the 344 players tested for coronavirus, zero came back positive. 

The league plans to officially start its season on July 30. But the NBA took a unique approach to safety for the 2020 season by relocating 22 teams to a sports complex on Walt Disney World property in Orlando, FL. Instead of traveling for games like the MLB and NFL, teams have been inside the “NBA Bubble” isolation zone since July 7 and are regularly tested. 

COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the U.S., with more than 4.3 million people infected and nearly 150,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins.