by Emory Gun ’22
With the Covid- 19 pandemic still raging on in the United States, many day to day normalities have slowed or stopped completely. One of the most noticeable is sports. When the NBA, the first major American sports league announced its decision to suspend its season, it came as a shock to people across the country. Soon, other sports leagues followed, leaving loyal fans feeling desperate to watch sports.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was the first professional league to reopen in the United States during the pandemic. The league is holding its “Challenge Cup,” a tournament held only in Utah, with no fans in attendance. Protocols have been put into place to keep players and staff members as safe as possible. Perhaps the league thought that if they were the first live televised sports to come back, they would get higher ratings from the bored and desperate public.
Normally, the league has nine teams. However, for this tournament, there are only eight, due to one of the teams, The Orlando Pride, dropping out. Six players and four staff members from The Orlando Pride tested positive for Covid-19, compelling the team to pull out of the tournament. The Pride has standout players on their roster including Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Sydney Leroux Dwyer, and star Brazilian player, Marta. An entire team out with such high visibility stars could potentially result in a loss of viewers.
Players who are worried about their health are allowed to sit out the tournament without losing pay. U.S. National Team members Christen Press, Tobin Heath, and Megan Rapinoe, have all chosen not to participate for this reason.
With one full team and many star players out, is the NWSL proving that this is too early and dangerous to reopen professional sports seasons in America? On the other hand, could it become the template for success for other leagues? Only time will tell.