COVID-19 Crisis Spreads to the NFL as Players Opt Out of 2020 Season

Professional sports leagues have been one of the biggest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. NFL is being hit by Covid-19 already after a slew of prominent players decided to take a pass on playing in the 2020-21 football season.

Major League Soccer was the first sports league to restart their season, and also the first to cancel a game due to a local outbreak. In Major League Baseball, the Miami Marlins have seen six of their games postponed.

Now the NFL is experiencing trouble as 22 players from 15 different teams opted out of playing on Tuesday.

Big Dropouts for the 2020 Season

One of the biggest names to opt-out of the season was the new Minnesota Vikings nose tackle, Michael Pierce. After signing a $27 million deal as a free agent in March, the three-year contract is already in trouble as Pierce is set to miss his first year.

Pierce explained to the Pioneer Press, “I have really bad asthma among other respiratory issues, so it’s not one of those voluntary opt-outs. It’s a high-risk opt-out. I kind of knew, and the Vikings kind of knew. They have all my medical records, so they were aware of my issues. It’s tough.”

The news comes as the virus continues to spin out of control across many states. The US has the most deaths in the world, by some margin, with 151k deaths recorded, as of Wednesday.

Other opt-outs include Dont’a Hightower and Dan Vitale of the New England Patriots, Kyle Peko of the Denver Broncos, and Devin Funchess of the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots are the team that has lost out big as five of their players have already decided to take a pass on the 2020 season.

What Does This Mean for Players?

Players that have opted out of the 2020 season have not done so of their own accord. Under an amended collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL, players are entitled to opt-out of playing this season.

Under the agreement, player contracts will remain the same and the missed year will be added to the following year. Accrued seasons won’t count and players are able to take a stipend of $150,000 as a salary advance.

Players with provable medical conditions making them more likely to contract the disease and experience major complications don’t need to officially opt-out. They will receive an accrued season towards free agency and all benefits, as well as a $350,000 stipend.

The League Shaken by MLB Disaster

Baseball cut short its spring training back in March and resumed its season preparations at the start of July. Players were given stringent safety guidelines, including a 113-page document to read.

However, despite all the attempts at preserving a safe bubble in baseball, the Miami Marlins announced that more than a dozen players and coaches had to go into quarantine. With so many positive tests, this has shaken players in other sports leagues.

This is despite the fact baseball players are quarantined within their hotels, undergo daily tests, and are constantly socially distanced.

The NFL has big questions to answer as it’s the game least compatible with social distancing and reduced physical contact.

In response, the league canceled its entire preseason program of games. This means when the NFL resumes during the fall, they will be jumping right back into the regular season.

Major Ramifications for the NFL this Year

The loss of a usual preseason game, players opting out in droves, and no fans at the games have created an environment ripe for an opportunity within the NFL. Fans can throw the formbook out of the window because teams have already been sent into panic mode.

With so many extenuating circumstances coming together to impact the season, and a potential second wave on the horizon, the NFL is ready to spring some surprises in 2020-21.

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