College sports shouldn’t get a free pass when it comes to pandemic restrictions

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College sports are not more important than public health and safety.

As Ontario returns to its Phase 1 lockdown, the States does little to curb cases, though people are still expected to adhere to social distancing recommendations and wear masks indoors. Concerts have been cancelled, business capacities severely lowered, and hospitals overrun.

Yet college sports go on.

While many teams take precautions like testing their players three times a week, that doesn’t eliminate the risk that comes with playing, especially playing high-contact sports. Not only does testing players frequently take resources from others, but it’s also a flawed system that will catch positive cases only by the time it’s too late.

Campuses are breeding grounds for COVID-19. Student-athletes living in dorms are constantly being exposed to other students and roommates who, in some cases, are still completing in-person learning. Even with frequent testing, going forward with college sports games puts players at risk.

Athletes can choose to sit the season out, but for many, that’s not a feasible option; those banking on a career in a professional league can’t afford to miss out on a year if everyone else is still playing.

For professional leagues, bubbles have been used to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. These bubbles do create a safe environment to play in, but they aren’t feasible in a college setting. Yet, that hasn’t deterred teams from playing.

At the end of the day, the NCAA and other college sports organizations are more preoccupied with money than the safety of their players. Sports may be the most profitable in the entertainment industry, but public health should always come first, especially when so many others have already made sacrifices in the name of safety.

That’s not to say sports lack value, especially in the middle of the pandemic; sports act as a form of escapism for many. But the moment sports threaten the safety of players and the public, that value is outweighed by the negative impacts.

The US should follow Canada’s lead and put college sports on hold until conditions improve. By refusing to cancel their games, sports teams show they value profit over people.

No one wants to have one more thing taken away by the pandemic, but sacrifices are necessary if the world is ever going to get COVID-19 under control. Right now, sports are part of the problem.

—Journal Editorial Board

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