President Donald Trump popped Dr. Anthony Fauci’s bubble on Friday, rejecting Fauci’s concerns over the National Football League resuming play this fall.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that some form of isolation should be a condition of sports resuming.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year,” he told CNN.
“Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening. However, if they don’t stand for our National Anthem and our Great American Flag, I won’t be watching!!!” Trump tweeted Friday.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in a statement that players and the league are working to “mitigate the health risk to players, coaches, and other essential personnel.”
“We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem,” he said.
“Make no mistake, this is no easy task,” Sills added. “We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”
Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director for the NFL Players Association, said in a statement that “Dr. Anthony Fauci’s words carry important weight as he has served our country with expert guidance and moral clarity through many crises,” CBS News reported.
“In addition to stringent protocols and workplace safety, we continue to reinforce the importance of widely available testing. It is not just a key to restarting football, but also a matter of public health. While the information we currently have indicates it will not be an issue in the near future, we all agree that ethically, we can not as a non-essential business, take resources away from our fellow Americans,” he went on.
Fauci has never been shy about saying public health is more important than sports.
“Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything,” he told The New York Times in late April. “If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season.'”
Fauci has called for gradual steps to reopen sports leagues.
“We’ve got to make sure that when we try to get back to normal, including being able to play baseball in the summer and football in the fall and basketball in the winter, that when we do come back to some form of normality, we do it gradually and carefully. And when cases do start to rebound — which they will, no doubt — that we have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing.
Fauci then said that isolation is the easiest answer.
“I’m not saying this is the way to go, but you want to at least consider having players, if they’re going to play, play in front of a TV camera without people in the audience. And then test all the players and make sure they’re negative and keep them in a place where they don’t have contact with anybody on the outside who you don’t know whether they’re positive or negative,” he said.
“That’s going to be logistically difficult, but there’s at least the possibility of doing that. In other words, we said that for baseball, get the players in Major League Baseball, get a couple of cities and a couple of hotels, get them tested and keep them segregated. I know it’s going to be difficult for them not to be out in society, but that may be the price you pay if you want to play ball.”
The NBA has developed a plan to resume play in July, with games being played at Disney World, but all of the details have yet to be ironed out, according to CBS. The concept of a shortened Major League Baseball season has been discussed, but there has been no agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association.