Miami Marlins COVID-19 Breakout a Cautionary Tale for NFL

The NFL must carefully watch the fallout of the Miami Marlins debacle and learn how to proceed to avoid a similar situation that may threaten its 2020 season.

The hot sports news Monday morning was the revelation that the Miami Marlins allowed four players who tested positive for COVID-19 to play against the Phillies over the weekend, despite the restrictions agreed to by Major League Baseball and its players' union. As a result, there are now at least 14 members of the Marlins organization who have tested positive for the virus, and two games postponed at the time of this writing.

It was a sobering blow after just three days of play, and could have ripple effects on the NFL.

What's particularly frustrating about this incident is that MLB and the players spent a long time this summer in a back-and-forth labor dispute regarding what the season would look like, who would earn how much money and what types of safety procedures would be implemented. The Marlins apparently decided the rules would not apply to them.

Jeff Passan from ESPN was asked on Golic and Wingo this morning about why the four players who tested positive were allowed to play. He responded:

"I think the players wanted to play, and I think that Major League Baseball didn't want to set off any alarms with just four players."

This is inexcusable, and frankly, every single person involved in the decision to allow these four players to play should be banned for life from the sport. Not fined, not suspended, not put on a commissioner's list. Permanently banned.

This is far more egregious than anything done by, say Pete Rose. This is a team forgoing all health and safety protocols, showing a complete disregard for the safety of its players and everyone who comes into contact with them. This will only happen again unless MLB takes immediate, strict action. This is already a fragile season, and the Marlins may have just blown it all up. A lifetime ban is completely appropriate in these circumstances, and is the only penalty that will deter other teams from doing the same as Miami did to try to maintain a competitive edge. 

[Yes, yes, insert Marlins/competitive edge joke here.]

The NFL, once again, has the good fortune to be able to watch other leagues and see what they're doing wrong, and hopefully learn a thing or two about how to proceed.

Already the risk for an outbreak is much greater in the NFL than in baseball; there are significantly more players and coaches and much closer, extended physical contact on the field. 

We've seen time and time again how the league completely disregards player safety in favor of potential revenue. We know players are almost always going to want to play in the face of injury or illness.The risk of a Marlins-like scenario is very real.

It is on every single NFL team to put the health of its players and staff first and foremost this season. If a team decides to shirk its health and safety responsibilities, the results could be exponentially worse than anything that arises out of the Marlins' situation, simply due to the nature of the sport.

The NFL must be prepared for an outbreak and to take immediate action to quell it. If the outbreak is caused by reckless negligence a la the Marlins, the league should be prepared to hand down the strictest penalties in its history for doing so. 

This is the price of playing football in 2020. All teams must faithfully obey every single protocol agreed to by the league and its players this season, or else they will face a premature cancelation of the season and severe consequences.

Here I must emphasize how much I want football this fall. I cannot imagine a lost season of Packers football; we desperately need some kind of positive diversion.

But here's the reality: these sports are playing on in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans because of dollar signs. Any person involved in any of these sports leagues who's willing to flout safety protocols and thus risk the health and lives of players, coaches and people in their bubbles should be excommunicated from their respective league, be it MLB, NFL, NBA or otherwise. They must own the consequences of their actions. This is bigger than sports.

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (42)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
scullyitsme's picture

July 27, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Yep, inexcusable, but I’m not sure what we expected to happen. Just look on the comment section here or anywhere. There is a certain percent of the population that doesn’t take it seriously calling it a hoax or overblown. That’s the same in sports. All it takes is one not to care to infect a whole team. Prepare for more I’m afraid.

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gkarl's picture

July 27, 2020 at 12:54 pm

Scully,

Agree that there is going to be a % of the population that don't take this seriously, you/we all can see it everyday. What is totally unbelievable is that management KNEW 4 tested positive and let them play anyway, how stupid can they be........on second thought don't answer that.

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Adorabelle's picture

July 27, 2020 at 08:37 pm

Reportedly they left it up to the players if they wanted to play. The freaking players! We can certainly expect some damn brains from the supposed adults who are in the management and medical areas of this team to do the right thing.

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x24's picture

July 27, 2020 at 12:34 pm

When an NFL Team travels, it is said that players, plus coaches and staff number 135 to 200 per team. Let's call it 170. Since there are 2 teams meeting to play a game, that means a total of 340 people need to test negative for Covid before each game...

I don't think that is achievable

And then, all the players and staff might have to quarantine for 14 days after travel?

If all the stars align, we might get in an 8 game season.

And that's a pretty big "if"

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oceanstrength's picture

July 27, 2020 at 01:06 pm

I dont think the flu is a hoax, I dont want to get it, but I'm not afraid of it. I can take steps to avoid it.
I dont think Covid is a hoax, but I think the flue is worse because so many people have had covid and dont get very sick. I am 63yrs, and barely knew I had it. I have quite a few friends who had the same experience. What people hate is civil liberties taken away over fears and and politics. I have a right to drive my car, eat high fructose corn syrup and drink alcohol, all of which are more dangerous than covid, because they can lead to heart disease, diabetes addiction and other 'preexisting conditions'.
You sheeple are all brainwashed.

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scullyitsme's picture

July 27, 2020 at 01:32 pm

Oh, that’s the other thing about the people that don’t take it seriously. They are usually angry at everyone who does believe in science and call us names. There is a good chance they are so defiant, they’d let infected players play. We all understand it’s not cancer. We all understand that most who get it won’t die, we also understand that the more it spreads the more people will die, that is a fact. You believe that there’s nothing we can do to stop or slow it. I disagree, and so does the free world, actually even the less free world type countries believe also.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 28, 2020 at 07:44 am

I take some umbrage at the "I believe in science" back patting. I also believe in science. I believe in masking. I believed in both science and masking back in February when our experts lied to us and told us not to wear masks. Again, this was a *lie* to protect the supply chain.

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/leahbarkoukis/2020/06/17/fauci-masks-n2570789

Now, there is public confusion about whether masks are effective. Gee? Where did everyone get that idea?

So, no, our experts don't just get to say, "Hey you guys now that we've stopped lying everyone should believe us. For real. Done lying. Scouts' honor. No more lies. Telling the truth starting in five...four...three...two...one..." That's not the way "credibility" operates.

Instead of directing our anger at the nonmask wearing people, we should be directing our anger at the people who lied to us. We have been let down and betrayed by their government at every level, they've been misinformed and and stirred into a panic by an incompetent media, they've been failed by their health care system. Instead of holding those people accountable, we focus our energy on mocking the old guys that won't mask up.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 27, 2020 at 01:24 pm

Huge amounts on money and time have been placed into making sure you can drive your car safely with a minimal risk of impacting others. IE, all cars have minimum safety requirements, roads are much safer, there are rules everyone must follow or loose.

We haven't had the time to do that yet for COVID so this a false comparison. And, driving isn't a right, it's a privilege we revoke from the irresponsible.

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Since'61's picture

July 27, 2020 at 06:21 pm

I would also add that everyone who drives wear their seatbelts. About 40,000 people in the US are killed in auto accidents annually.

Yet those same people won’t wear a mask to protect themselves and others from a virus that has killed 150,000 Americans in less than 6 months. Makes no sense at all. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 28, 2020 at 09:15 am

Actually it makes perfect sense when you realize how selfish many Americans are.

I've done extensive travel with trips lasting over 1 month. The biggest culture shock is not going anywhere and seeing how 'they' act. It's coming home and seeing with fresh eyes how many Americans act.

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Slim11's picture

July 27, 2020 at 02:31 pm

There are some things we do know about the Wuhan virus because it is a virus.

1. Viruses do not like direct sunlight.

2. Viruses do not like fresh air.

3. Viruses do not live long on dry surfaces, especially metal.

I recognize this virus is highly contagious and wear a mask when directed by (1) my employer (which they have!) or (2) by a retail establishment I am patronizing. Both have a right to establish some parameters as they do business (similar to "no, shirt, no shoes...no service!). But I will not wear a mask outside when the governor of a state says to do so under the threat of a fine via "executive order." Politicians tend to cite/ignore science when they find it convenient.

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fastmoving's picture

July 27, 2020 at 02:57 pm

You mean the Trump virus, I got it. But its not the Oranges fault, he just dont know what science is. Or economy or football or something else......
He is Cleveland, just worse.....

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bjkdad44's picture

July 27, 2020 at 03:40 pm

Sounds like a trumpie idiot to me

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 28, 2020 at 09:18 am

"Politicians tend to cite/ignore science when they find it convenient."

None of your numbered points are backed up by any science. The virus lives much longer on smooth surfaces than porous ones, and the light that kills it is UVC which is filtered out by the atmosphere.

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bjkdad44's picture

July 27, 2020 at 03:38 pm

Idiot

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Adorabelle's picture

July 27, 2020 at 09:11 pm

We pass laws for the common good all the time to save lives. You mentioned driving your car there are several thousand laws regarding how you do that safely alone. I am firmly convinced that yearly car inspections have no safety benefit whatsoever but are just a money making scam. But the last thing I am ever going to do is start screaming at the inspector or call everyone else who gets their car inspected sheep.

We know how to protect from this new threat and only need a few rules to do it. It doesn't seem that complicated and pretty much every other country that isn't the United States seems capable of it.

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Adorabelle's picture

July 27, 2020 at 08:58 pm

If your actions only impact you then go ahead, when your actions impact the rest of us then we get a say in it as well.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 27, 2020 at 09:16 pm

That isn't really true, you know. People do and say things that affect others all the time without any restrictions. There is no nuance in your statement. What you did was take something that in a very general sense is true and purport that it is always true.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 29, 2020 at 03:09 pm

I love it when the Fox News crowd call other people "brainwashed sheeple". Too funny!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 27, 2020 at 01:29 pm

"Jeff Passan from ESPN asked on Golic and Wingo this morning about why the four players who tested positive were allowed to play"

What? WTF?

Really? WTLF?

'''
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said his team “never really considered not playing” on Sunday. The club’s most respected veteran, shortstop Miguel Rojas, told the media afterward that all 30 players discussed the situation Sunday morning, but said not playing was “never our mentality.”
'''

Wow, all respect for Don Mattingly gone.

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fordguy's picture

July 27, 2020 at 01:58 pm

Crazy right? Why didn't the players who had a problem with it not play in protest and organize a few hundred people outside to protest and bring awareness to the situation.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 27, 2020 at 04:54 pm

Instead they knowingly exposed a whole other baseball team and their families.

Unbelievable selfishness.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 28, 2020 at 10:05 am

"Florida Man"

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Brad.S's picture

July 27, 2020 at 02:40 pm

Thanks, TimBackes. Very thoughtful, well-written piece.

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Lphill's picture

July 27, 2020 at 02:45 pm

Funny it’s Florida where 33 labs were found to be reporting no negative tests and 98% positive yet it was really 9.8 % positive . I think there is a vaccine already but it’s being suppressed until after the election. The Dems can’t allow Trump any positive news.

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bjkdad44's picture

July 27, 2020 at 03:41 pm

Idiot

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Lphill's picture

July 27, 2020 at 04:12 pm

Truth , dumbass

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dobber's picture

July 27, 2020 at 04:34 pm

" I think there is a vaccine already but it’s being suppressed until after the election."

That sounds like opinion, to me.

And as a scientist, I guarantee you that what you're seeing right now is the fastest vaccine development in the history of mankind, from initial infection to something that's in widespread trials...and there's several happening all over the world, not just in the US. The lefties and righties don't have much to say over what's happening in Europe and other places. There's too much money involved to not finish the process. Take off your tinfoil hat.

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mnbadger's picture

July 28, 2020 at 08:59 am

Sorry lPhil, but trump's, barr's and mconell's actions, inactions and words are the only things that are leading to the bad news we face multiple times a day. Democrats aren't politically savvy enough to do what the rethuglicans are doing to themselves. Back to football. GPG

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Adorabelle's picture

July 28, 2020 at 02:28 pm

That's my thought on this daily when the Idea it is all a hoax is mentioned. You mean the same geniuses that think Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, Hillary ClInton and Joe Biden are good ideas now have the savvy to pull off the most elaborate con in history? The democrats wish they were smart enough to pull something like that off.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 29, 2020 at 03:15 pm

You sir....are a moron.

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Since'61's picture

July 27, 2020 at 09:05 pm

We should note that due to the outbreak among the Marlins 4 more NFL players have decided to opt out for the season as of today. As I mentioned on another thread we will probably see this continue during TC and maybe during the season.

It could become a problem for the Packers and the league and eventually jeopardize the season. Thanks, Since ‘61

P.S. Just saw an update that 2 more NFL players have opted out for the season. That is 7 total so far. No Packers yet at least.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 27, 2020 at 09:21 pm

NFL players have to opt out by early August. Well, I haven't seen the fine print, so perhaps that is just to get the stipend, accrued season, etc. Yeah, that is interesting as to whether players can opt out later in TC or even during the season. If things get bad, I don't see how the NFL could refuse to let players opt out.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 27, 2020 at 09:26 pm

If the team/players deliberately disobeyed the protocol, that is a small positive in that it might mean the protocol could still be a viable model under which to play a season. Then you ban these idiots.

If there was no disobedience, that suggests the protocol doesn't work. I haven't seen articles noting deliberate disobedience (didn't see a link) but some of the comments have quotes, so I am assuming the Marlins' players and coaches knew or should have known that the players had positive tests.

Should result in one of the biggest fines in baseball history and suspensions and probably bans.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 28, 2020 at 10:15 am

There have been 'whispers' down here that the Marlins' ownership was looking to tank the season, and trade the rest of their high salary players even before the convid-19 outbreak. That this happened to this team should not surprise anyone.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 28, 2020 at 08:35 am

"This is a team forgoing all health and safety protocols, showing a complete disregard for the safety of its players and everyone who comes into contact with them."

There is a bit of irony, here, though. What do you think is more hazardous: (1) playing a baseball game with four players infected by COVID; or (2) playing a professional football game anywhere at anytime?

Its football in a rout. If the only thing that matters is health and safety, should the NFL disband the league?

I think its HILARIOUS that we are talking about the risk of COVID to NFL players. LOL. Of all the health risks to pro football players, COVID is way down the list.

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iciice's picture

July 28, 2020 at 09:34 am

It's partially about the players but more so about their families and spreading the virus. No, it's not the Spanish flu, etc, but without social distancing already occurring the death numbers would be higher. At some point the health care system becomes overwhelmed and those that need care can't get it, and the death toll starts to spike. There can also be an issue with the food chain (i.e. it doesn't take much to shut down various processing plants). The only way to know for sure is if we stop wearing masks/practicing social distancing....and if all hell breaks loose we can say "oops". Since that's not a good option, wear a mask and quit trying to drum up support to rise up and ignore social distancing guidelines we're trying to follow

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 28, 2020 at 10:46 am

You don't think a football player's family is affected when he gets his spine shattered?

Playing football is a far greater risk to these players and their families than COVID. This is a very dangerous sport. So all the faux concern for player health rings a bit false to me.

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scullyitsme's picture

July 28, 2020 at 12:22 pm

What the hell dude? How does a football player getting the virus not different then directly giving it to his 4 year old daughter with asthma? Things aren’t as simple as you need them to be, it’s time to grow up, life is complex.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 28, 2020 at 01:43 pm

Be honest: what percentage of NFL football players have 4 year old asthmatics at home? By all means that subgroup probably should sit out the season.

But, 100% of players have craniums and spinal cords and bones and tendons and other breakable parts. There is close to a 100% chance that multiple players will suffer brain injuries in week one. But we allow grown men to make that decision. Maybe we shouldn't.
Not my call. But having decided that grown men can make that choice, why would we roll out the fainting couch over the prospect of a player catching COVID?

(And anyone who *really* thinks that shutting down the NFL will move the needle even a little bit in slowing down the virus spread is scientifically illiterate.)

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mnbadger's picture

July 28, 2020 at 03:22 pm

The cranium and spinal risk is the player's personal risk. He and the nfl have long term insurance for that.
Exposing your kids, wife, parents, extended family to covid is outside of that risk. They aren't on the field.
All of our employers have some responsibility to protect us. Each of us, and the players, have a right not to return if we don't feel protected. Individually, we'll make the best decisions for our family circle.
None of us can move the needle individually, but if we each protect our circles, the needle moves itself. GPG

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 28, 2020 at 04:00 pm

"Individually, we'll make the best decisions for our family circle."

Now we agree. Let grown-ups make their own grown-up decisions. I don't need to run anyone's life for them **or shame them because they make different decisions than I do**. Some players may have asthmatics at home. Some don't.

If we cut through the bullshit, the data and the science show that the actual risk to the players and their young families is laughably low. Are there counterfactual anecdotes? Of course. There always are. But, players that have unique homelife situations (elderly parents at home, etc.) know who they are and can make those decisions accordingly. Maybe Mom and Pops have to go live with sister Suzie for a few months. Problem solved.

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