Odell Beckham Jr. does not believe the NFL should hold the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with Lane Florsheim of the Wall Street Journal, the Cleveland Browns wideout said he feels the campaign is only being held for monetary reasons and that the league’s owners don’t see the players as human:
” Obviously with everything that’s going on, it doesn’t make sense why we’re trying to do this. I can understand basketball was already in the playoffs. Five-on-five basketball in an arena is going to be more intense than regular-season games. Hooping is different than playing an eleven-on-eleven contact sport where there’s 80 people in a locker room. We’re not ready for football season. So why are we trying to push forward? It’s obviously for their money. And that bothers me because there’s always been this-and I hate saying it like that-but the owners’ [attitude is], ‘Oh we own you guys,’ and just kind of that unfairness going on that they don’t see us as human. I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen and I’m prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn’t mind not having it.“
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com later reported that Beckham “has no plans of opting out” after seeing “how safe” the Browns’ facility was.
The viability of the NFL season during the coronavirus pandemic remains in question. While sports in the North America that have operated within a bubble environment like the NBA, NHL and MLS have worked well, Major League Baseball has not operated in a bubble and has seen a number of positive cases on several teams, forcing the postponements of some games.
Beckham noted several concerns the NFL is facing, namely the roster sizes and the fact that football is a full-contact sport. Both seemingly increase the risks of passing along the coronavirus. But traveling between cities is also a concern and increases the chances of the coronavirus spreading throughout the league.
For the time being, the plan is to go ahead with the NFL season. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to testing protocols for training camps, and according to Jori Epsteinof USA Today, teams will also “require daily temperature screening, symptom monitoring, social distancing and masks. The league will use an Apple Watch-like proximity tracking device to identify which players, coaches and staff might have come into contact with someone who tested positive.”
Despite those plans, however, a number of NFL players have opted out of the 2020 season. To date, superstars on Beckham’s level have not done so, but it remains a possibility. And some teams have been hit harder than others, with eight members of the New England Patriots opting out.
If superstars begin opting out, an NFL season already full of uncertainty will have an entirely different feel. Such is the reality for professional sports in 2020.