Tuesday, September 15, 2020

NFL Players Ignoring COVID Rules

By Anthony Brancato

After NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave away the store to the players as regards disrespecting the national anthem, he laid down the law when it comes to players shaking hands etc. after games.

The only thing is that essentially none of the players are taking Goodell seriously on the latter. Should we be surprised?

The new pandemic-driven league rules, released on July 9, state, among other things, the following:

"Opposing teams will be prohibited from post-game interactions within six feet of one another."

"Players on the bench will be prohibited from interacting with fans, meaning no autographs or photographs." This is (almost) a moot point since only Jacksonville and Kansas City are allowing any fans in at all, at least for the moment — and can't photographs be taken from more than six feet away?

"Media will be banned from the locker rooms." At least that means no Lisa Olson incidents for the duration of the pandemic: in 1990, Ms. Olson, a sportswriter for the Boston Herald, was the victim of indecent exposure and other forms of harassment at the hands of at least three Patriots players, resulting in a $12,500 fine getting levied against tight end Zeke Mowatt, the alleged ringleader.

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay pointed up the stark absurdity of all this, observing, "So we can tackle each other for 60 minutes but can't exchange jerseys, which takes two minutes."

While no post-game exchanges of jerseys took place, at least not within the range of any of the cameras, over the weekend, plenty of post-game handshakes did — although, interestingly, many if not most of the handshaking players were wearing gloves.

Who wears gloves in 90-degree weather, or in a game played indoors?

Maybe the league followed up its original announcement with one exempting players wearing gloves from the no-handshake rule? But players were "man-hugging" one another all over the place after games.

And post-competition greetings of this sort don't seem to be raising any hackles at all in mixed martial arts: neither of MMA's two major organizations — the UFC and Bellator — have made any pretense of enforcing rules banning fighters from engaging in gestures of sportsmanship after fights (then again, the UFC plays The Who's "Baba O'Reilly," not the national anthem, at the beginning of the televised portion of each of its events). And MMA fighters wear only shorts (not even shoes), making physical contact in MMA much more — how shall we say — intimate than it is in football.

Goodell looks weak all the way around: he refuses to enforce a rule against something that his best customers despise — while announcing a rule that these same best customers don't give a tinker's damn about, and then turns around and doesn't enforce it.

It is so unfortunate that Goodell is squandering a legacy that should focus on how the NFL added two more playoff teams, and will add one more game to the regular season at the expense of an exhibition season that no one likes, under his watch.

As Elias Sandoval accused Captain Kirk of doing in the 1967 "Star Trek" episode "This Side of Paradise," Goodell stresses very unimportant matters. And that's his main problem.

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