The NFL shouldn't play, let alone have fans in the stadium

With concerns over COVID-19, many colleges have decided to put their football seasons on hold, including Carnegie Mellon. Currently, 90 college football programs are planning on having full games in the fall, including the University of Pittsburgh, who played their third game on Saturday against Louisville. Many, on the other hand, have pushed back their season, such as the Big Ten, who are starting their season on Oct. 24, with others (including Carnegie Mellon) holding off until spring. While some college teams and the NFL have started up their season, the question remains: should they be playing?

According to the data on the NFL Player Association’s website, over 36,000 tests have been administered to a total of 7,845 staff and players so far. That’s an average of around 4.5 tests per person, which seems high considering the supposed shortage of COVID-19 tests. While it is a good measure to actively test players and staff in case they contract COVID, if the NFL season was not happening right now, these tests could have been distributed to other communities. Also on the page is a tracker that uses information from Johns Hopkins University, showing the number of cases per 100,000 people in each metropolitan area that a football team is located. As of the data from Sept. 20, Pittsburgh has the fifth-fewest cases per 100,000 people out of all the areas with NFL teams.

What’s missing from the tracker, though, is how many cases the NFL has reported overall and which teams the cases belong to. The only information it gives in regards to cases is the number of positive cases from the last week of testing. As of Sept. 22, five personnel and zero players had new positive results.

Many colleges that planned to play their season in the fall have already had to postpone games. After seven players tested positive, Notre Dame announced that their game planned for Sept. 26 against Wake Forest was postponed. They are the first top-ten team to postpone a game due to players contracting COVID-19. Houston has had its fourth game in a row postponed due to their opponents having positive test results. Overall, almost 20 games have been postponed or canceled, with more likely to come.

Unfortunately, a college football player passed away due to COVID-19 earlier this month. Jamain Stephens, who attended California University of Pennsylvania, was hospitalized with the coronavirus and pneumonia. He is the first college football player believed to have died from the coronavirus. Though he is a single case, this should still have athletes questioning if it’s a wise decision to play this season in the fall.

While NFL and college football games are certainly a major source of entertainment that many look forward to in the fall, seasons should continue to get postponed to the spring. Unless stricter measures are taken, more football games are going to be canceled or postponed. As of Sept. 24, at least 22 states and territories reported having an increase in their number of cases. While cases continue to go up, it’s probably not the best decision to continue having football games. But since these games are happening now, should fans be able to attend?

Currently, attendance at games varies from college to college. For Pitt fans, due to state and county guidelines, spectators are not allowed to be at the games. Most teams have between 15% and 25% percent seating, which allows enough room for social distancing when fans are seated. At some events, tailgating is also allowed. On the NFL level, most teams are not hosting fans for their first few games, while others are allowing a very limited number of fans, most of whom are season-pass holders.

While it is certainly a letdown for many fans who were planning on attending games this fall, it’s for the best that fans don’t attend. While social distancing is good, that can only really be applied to seating. There is no guarantee that when people get up from their seats that they will continue to follow social distancing rules. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to limit interactions with others, and a good way to do that is by staying home.

By pushing games and seasons until later when the number of cases is much lower, and a vaccine is potentially available, the football season can be safer for players, staff, and fans alike. Though many teams are following protocols and trying to keep their players safe, postponing seasons would be the best option.