Pro football is back. NFL invests heavily in COVID testing and contact tracing

The NFL is back. Last season’s Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, took on the Houston Texans on Thursday night. Around 17,000 socially distanced fans were allowed into Arrowhead Stadium, which holds more than 76,000. Alicia Keys sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem. And many fans booed when both teams came out of the locker rooms together and locked arms to show solidarity.

“It’s a very strong moment of solidarity — Black players and white players locking arms while messages [display] on the scoreboard of ‘we must stop police brutality, Black lives matter.’ … And you’ve got people in the stands, the 17,000 fans booing that … saying essentially ‘shut up and dribble,’ even though it’s football. It’s an ugly moment,” says Randy Sklar, co-host of the podcast “View from the Cheap Seats.”

Meanwhile, the league is heavily testing players all the time for COVID-19, he says. “I wish the country would care as much as these sports leagues are as far as contact tracing and testing and rapid testing. So they’ve invested a lot of money in that. And if you do test positive for COVID, you have to sit out. … They’re taking extra special care because they know … if somebody gets it and they don’t catch it soon enough, everybody on the team is going to get it, and then you have to start cancelling games, and it’s a gigantic mess.”

Meanwhile, in basketball, Sklar says the NBA playoffs have been incredible. “They’ve bubbled up. The players are all protected. They’ve had fantastic [progress] as far as testing.”

He adds, “I have to commend the NBA because they realize what they’re doing is not like regular games. It doesn’t have the excitement with the fans. There are zero fans there, although they’re virtually there. … The way they’ve set up the bubble and the way they’ve set up these playoffs and sort of the tournament style, you feel like you are so intimate with these players, you could hear everything.”