Anticipate NFL video games to renew at $ three billion regardless of the Covid-19 outbreak
Ryan Tannehill # 17 of the Tennessee Titans plays the ball in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images
This was expected.
The National Football League is currently in a pandemic crisis triggered by Covid-19 outbreaks that began with the Tennessee Titans. And as in Major League Baseball, outside skepticism is mounting as to whether the league will end its pandemic season.
After more than 20 positive tests by members of the Titans, now the "Miami Marlins" of professional football, the NFL has reviewed a number of its pandemic safety protocols that threaten fines and drafts if violations persist.
According to those familiar with the situation, the investigation into whether or not members of the Titans violated the league's Covid-19 protocols is nearing completion, but the results have not been made available. People added that they expect the NFL to release their discipline in a matter of days. Individuals agreed to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity, as the discussion of personal health issues is sensitive.
The Titans' practice area will remain closed, and the club's upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills will be played on October 13 at 7pm. Easter time.
A similar investigation by the New England Patriots is ongoing after players including star quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for Covid-19. Newton's results caused the team's competition against the Kansas City Chiefs to be postponed, and with additional positive testing, the NFL rescheduled the Patriots' 5th week game against the Denver Broncos to October 12 at 5:00 p.m. East.
If players are found to have violated the guidelines, the first mistake may be fined $ 50,000. A second violation could be more costly as players could face violations against the team. And that could void massive guarantees in some contracts, depending on the structure of the deals.
In a memo to the clubs on Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed the "violations of the protocols" and reminded players and team staff that "compliance is mandatory". Teams and coaches have already been fined for not wearing masks on the sidelines during matches.
But will the fines and threats work? And can the NFL learn anything from MLB that is nearing the end of its season with the World Series scheduled for this month in Texas?
Gil Fried, an expert in stadium security and risk management and a professor at the University of New Haven, said time is the means.
"Time gives us the opportunity to learn more and do things that we may not have done before," Fried said. "We learn more every day. We are making better drugs and have learned so much in the last eight months. Yes, we have a lot of people who are still confused, but that's what you expect."
Fried said he was concerned about the recent outbreak and warned the NFL that it couldn't get "complacent," especially over fears of a second wave of the virus this fall and winter.
"Every league is trying to figure out the best way to move forward knowing that we are human and that we all have our faults," Fried said. "We can make as many rules as we want – distance, surveillance devices to wear, all of those things, but people are people."
The University of New Haven recently had its own Covid-19 outbreak after a big meeting last weekend.
"People get complacent over time, and as we see an upswing across the country, we need to find out if exercise is still safe," Fried said.
According to sources, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) held a conference call Wednesday evening with representatives of the players to discuss the outbreaks. The NFLPA reminded members of the roughly $ 3 billion salary that would be lost if the league didn't finish the 2020 season.
Well-known NFL agent Chafie Fields, executive vice president at Wasserman, said he was constantly informing his clients of the importance of following the league's Covid-19 protocols to avoid further outbreaks and keep players in the position to complete the 2020 season.
"Not only that, but to make sure they understand the veterans on the teams, they have to be the ones holding young people accountable because I don't see many older men taking that for granted," Fields told CNBC.
Fields customers include Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper and Chris Harris Jr. of the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I speak to each of these guys so that not only are they responsible for themselves, but they can hold the younger guys accountable so they understand the importance of (guidelines to follow)," he added.
According to the NFL's latest Covid-19 test report, 37,002 tests were performed on 7,981 people on Wednesday. The test found 11 confirmed cases in players and 15 cases in "other staff".
After the Titans' first outbreak, Goodell said the Covid-19 protocols had been reviewed and adjusted. The changes include:
- Longer waiting times for free agent tryouts
- Limited number of player attempts per week
- A total ban on gatherings outside of club meetings
- Install a league-wide video surveillance system to ensure protocols are followed, mainly protective covers, while players and team members are in the team facilities and travel to and from games.
"We also discussed additional steps to mitigate risk: consider holding all meetings virtually, wearing masks or shields during training and runs, reducing the size of the tour group, reducing the time in lunchtime and locker rooms, and that Proximity device will consult information daily to identify areas where your club might eliminate close contact, "Goodell said in the memo.
The NFL did not respond to a CNBC request to discuss updated logs.
But even if the league revises its precautionary measures, concerns about the spike in Covid-19 cases in NFL cities are a greater threat to the league's ability to end the season even as NFL outbreaks recede.
According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, cases of Covid-19 in the United States have risen to more than 40,000 a day in states like Wisconsin where the Green Bay Packers play.
People walk around the International Hotel Grand Hyatt during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak on May 21, 2020 in New York City.
VIEW press | Corbis News | Getty Images
Time for an NFL Bubble?
It's one reason there have been rumors of an NFL bubble. The soccer version of a bubble suggests that players stay in hotels during the season. The NFL would need NFLPA approval, which is currently unlikely.
But that could change as soon as the postseason comes.
"I have no problem with this model," Fried said when asked about an NFL bubble. He added, "It's an easier way to monitor what's going on. When everyone is scattered all over the place, it's a lot harder to monitor and regulate to make it safer for everyone."
However, creating a soccer bubble comes with challenges. One problem is the ability for teams to have appropriate recovery devices in non-team premises. Fried said the quality of the game could be affected if players were removed from the current environments.
"I just think about when you are out and how it affects your ability to sleep and things like that," he said. He added a move to ban teams, much like Major League Soccer's decision following positive Covid-19 tests, "could create a backlash".
But with billions at stake, Fried said he expected the league to end their season although the breakouts could continue.
In addition, the economic fallout from canceled games would further affect the league's revenue. NFL league office staff have accepted wage cuts and teams have been laid off as some games continue with no spectators. The NFL can't afford to sacrifice its television revenue, which makes the league about $ 7 billion a season.
"They see it as if they don't (play) what the wider implications can be and if that will affect the future league," Fried said. "The NFL needs to protect itself from the potential future harm and broader economic benefits that could result for all."