Dr. Fauci Says Football Will Need Bubble Like NBA, MLS to Play 2020 Seasons

The NFL logo NFL is on the goal post at Heinz Field before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills, Dec. 15, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the NFL needs to adopt a bubble format to play the 2020 season. 

In a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Fauci explained why the NFL may need to adopt the format that will be used by the NBA and MLS to play games: 

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble⁠—insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day⁠—it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills issued a statement in response to Fauci’s comments:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, responding to comments today from Dr. Anthony Fauci that it would be difficult to have a football season if players aren’t isolated in a bubble: https://t.co/vghyou8HyK

The NFLPA’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, also released a statement: 

NFLPA @NFLPA

A statement from NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer: https://t.co/GCPx5JQe6i

The NBA and MLS plan to play games starting in July, with teams in both leagues being stationed in Orlando, Florida.

According to the MLS guidelines, everyone will undergo COVID-19 testing every other day through the first two weeks after arriving in Orlando and regular testing, including before each matchday, after that initial 14-day period. 

Per the NBA document received by players and obtained by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, players, coaches and team staff members will go through a six-phase process to participate in games. 

Fauci’s comments come in the wake of NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reporting multiple players for the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

Per ESPN’s Ed Werder, at least two unnamed head coaches have questioned the NFL’s decision not to at least delay the season because of the pandemic. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg on Monday that the league was expecting to have positive tests following the report about Cowboys and Texans players: 

“The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them and prevent them from directly impacting our player personnel.

“So none of those players were in the facilities. All of those players, fortunately, have had either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”

The 2020 NFL regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans.

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