Spectator Sports Face Uncertainties in the U.S. as NFL, NBA and NHL Battle COVID Surges

Spectator sports like the NFL, NBA and NHL currently face uncertainties as all three professional leagues are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

In the NFL, dozens of players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week and even more have been placed under the league's COVID-19 protocols.

On Wednesday, the Washington Football Team placed seven new players on its COVID-19 reserve list, increasing the team's total number of players on the list to 18. According to ESPN, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said that despite the increase, he has not had any discussions with the league about potentially postponing the team's upcoming game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

In addition to the Washington Football Team, at least 11 players on the Cleveland Browns, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski have been placed on the team's COVID-19 reserve list, as well as 13 players from the Los Angeles Rams, seven players on the Minnesota Vikings and 5 players on the Houston Texans.

In response to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the NFL, the league recently sent out a memo, which was obtained by the Associated Press, notifying coaches and team staff members who have direct contact with players that they will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by December 27.

Newsweek reached out to the NFL for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The NBA has also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, with positive tests among both players and coaches. The Brooklyn Nets recently placed seven players on the league's health and safety protocols, including all-star James Harden. Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, also both recently announced that they had tested positive for COVID-19.

Additionally, the Chicago Bulls have placed several players on the league's health and safety protocol list, which resulted in the NBA postponing two of their games on December 14 and December 16.

"Ten Bulls players, along with additional staff members, are currently in the NBA's Health and Safety protocol," the NBA said when the league announced the postponement.

The Bulls are reportedly 100 percent vaccinated against COVID.

While speaking with the New York Times, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, "Like the rest of the country, and as was predicted by our infectious disease specialists, we have seen an increase of cases around the league."

"As we have since the pandemic began in March 2020, we will continue to follow the science and data, and will, in close partnership with the players' association, update our protocols as deemed appropriate by our medical experts," Bass said.

Newsweek reached out to the NBA for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Several NHL teams are also facing COVID-19 outbreaks among players, prompting some to postpone games. According to the Associated Press, the Calgary Flames, Carolina Panthers, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders have been forced to postpone a combined 10 games, due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Associated Press also recently reported that the NHL is working to reimpose stricter COVID-19 policies, such daily virus testing, citing anonymous sources with direct knowledge of discussions between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.

Newsweek reached out to the NHL for comment.

Some NHL players have also pushed to not appear in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing as part of their collective bargaining agreement with owners, according to ESPN.

"It's been a crazy year. There are a lot of questions still out there. But our focus right now is to put together the best team that we possibly can and to compete for a gold medal," Bill Guerin, the general manager of the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team recently said, according to ESPN. "And with the deep player pool that we have in the United States, we think that's capable."

ESPN also reported that members of the NHL Players Association have voiced concerns over players attending the Olympics and possible issues they could face with COVID-19.

COVID-19 Sports
The NBA, NFL and NHL are all facing uncertainties as each professional sports league deals with an increase in COVID-19 cases. Above, a general view of COVID-19 signage before the game between the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on March 22, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dylan Buell/Getty