Covid-19 is disrupting the NFL, NBA and NHL, sidelining dozens of players, including some of the leagues' biggest stars.
New cases this week have battered the leagues and prompted NBA and NHL postponements.
The NFL reported 65 cases between Monday and Tuesday, the worst two-day stretch since the pandemic began.
Dec. 15, 2021 02:23
The Cleveland Browns on Wednesday announced six players had been placed on the Covid-19 reserve list, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, starting safety John Johnson III and starting defensive tackle Malik McDowell.
Other star players on the Covid-19 reserve list this week include Los Angeles Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs.
A spokesperson with the NFL could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The NFL is grappling with the virus' wrath with the playoffs only weeks away.
On the hardwood, the NBA is not faring much better.
The Chicago Bulls on Monday announced Tuesday's game against the Detroit Pistons and Thursday's game against the Toronto Raptors would be rescheduled.
The games mark the first postponements of the season. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 25 players were in the NBA's health and safety protocols.
Ten Bulls players have entered into the league's Covid-19 protocols since Dec. 1, including stars Zach LaVine and Demar DeRozan, according to NBC Chicago.
One of the faces of the league, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led the Milwaukee Bucks to a championship last season, was expected to miss Wednesday's game against the Indiana Pacers after being put on the league's health and safety protocols Tuesday.
"Like the rest of the country, and as was predicted by our infectious disease specialists, we have seen an increase of cases around the League," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday. "We will continue to follow the science and data and will, in close partnership with the Players Association, update our protocols as deemed appropriate by our medical experts."
About 97 percent of the league's players are vaccinated, the NBA said. Of the players eligible, the league said, about 60 percent have received a booster vaccine.
The return of professional sports following the onset of the pandemic may have contributed a sense of normalcy for some fans, said Nicole Forrester, an assistant professor in the sports media program at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
"It's maybe a reminder of the reality how we are not necessarily out of the woods and how pervasive this virus is," Forrester said.
Forrester, a 2008 Olympian in high jump for team Canada, said the public may perceive obstacles prompted by the virus in professional sports as a reflection of their views on the subject. Some may conclude, "OK, this thing is real. It's back."
Others "who might be unvaccinated, they might be like, 'These people are vaccinated and they still get the virus.' It can conjure up a lot of mixed responses,” Forrester said.
The NHL has been forced to postpone more than a few games. the
More than 140 hockey athletes have been on the Covid protocol list this season — including more than two dozen since Monday.
The league on Monday postponed the Calgary Flames’ next three gamesovid.
The team announced Monday that forwards Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Brad Richardson and Adam Ruzicka and defensemen Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov were in the protocol.
A spokesperson with the NHL did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The NHL postponed three Ottawa Senators games in mid-November because of the team's virus outbreak. Other games postponed last month include the New York Islanders games at the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, according to NBC New York.
William Parham, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a psychologist who works with elite athletes, said professional sports leagues are doing well to keep their seasons afloat. He said athletes have been resilient.
Covid-19 and its variants are here for the indefinite future, Parham said. Upticks in infections only show athletes are like the rest of us, Parham said.
"If anything, coronavirus and its various strains, suggest it is an equal opportunity virus," he said. "It doesn't discriminate. And everybody is vulnerable including, the best trained and gifted athletes. … They're not immune."
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