Don’t Shut Down Sports Again for COVID | Opinion

In March 2020, when COVID-19 first exploded onto the scene, sports fans waited with bated breath to see which teams, and which leagues, would bow out on precautionary grounds. The answer quickly became clear: all of them. But actions that were more justifiable at that particular juncture, when we knew nothing about what was then called the « novel coronavirus, » are now silly and perhaps inexcusable. As we approach 2022, and as the exceedingly contagious but exceedingly nonlethal omicron variant spreads like wildfire, sports leagues and organizations should all commit to resisting COVID hysteria and keeping their doors open.

The initial unanimity of the March 2020 sports cancelations has, in the age of omicron, ceased to exist. The National Hockey League, for instance, announced earlier this week a pause to its season. The NHL is nominally set to resume play on Monday, December 27, but it is difficult to see what could change on the ground between now and then. The NHL also announced that, due to the omicron surge, it would not be sending its athletes to Beijing in February to compete in Xi Jinping’s Winter Olympic Games.

But the National Basketball Association, which as an institution is perhaps the most culturally far-left and woke-sycophantic of all the professional sports leagues, has nobly taken the precise opposite approach. Earlier this week, Commissioner Adam Silver succinctly articulated the conclusion that tens of millions of sober-minded Americans reached a long time ago: « I think we’re finding ourselves where we knew we were gonna get to for the past several months. And that is, this virus will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with it. »

As the popular anti-woke sports pundit Clay Travis tweeted, « Welcome to the party, pal. » Kudos to the normally virtue-signaling Black Lives Matter apologist Silver, and shame on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

A detail of the 75th anniversary NBA logo prior to the game between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks at FTX Arena on December 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As of this writing, precisely one person is reported to have died in the U.S. due to the omicron variant. That is despite the fact that « full » vaccination—an ever-changing target, but for now having the definition of initially jabbed and subsequently once « boosted »—appears to be remarkably ineffective against omicron, according to all indications. A recent study from a large South African health insurer, for instance, found that a two-shot dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is just 33 percent protective against omicron.

In a sane world where the virus were not politicized, the outbreak of such a contagious but mild virus variant as omicron would be recognized as no big deal, at minimum—and potentially even a genuine blessing in disguise, helping the populace bulk up on natural immunity and eventually develop herd immunity. As popular conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted, « GOD: Here’s a gift humans: a COVID variant that’s wildly contagious, but not lethal, to spread immunity far and wide! » She then added, « HUMANS (in blue states): TRIPLE MASK! CANCEL GATHERINGS! SHUT DOWN! »

Even holding aside Coulter’s sound logic, our general predicament, almost two years into the pandemic, is simple: COVID is not going anywhere. Period. It will continue to mutate into new variants and, much like influenza or even the common cold, will be with humanity for the foreseeable future. The push from some in the Faucist biomedical security state to continue the rhetorical (if not substantive) push for « COVID-zero » amounts to a denial of empirical, observable reality. The COVID hysteria-induced lockdown apologists might as well deny the blueness of the sky, at this point.

The onus is now on the other sports leagues and organizations to follow the lead of Silver’s NBA, not Bettman’s NHL. The risk is real that the National Collegiate Athletic Association might delay its impending College Football Playoff, or perhaps the rest of the high-profile men’s basketball season. Ditto Commissioner Roger Goodell’s National Football League. Such cancelations would be tremendous mistakes. Patrons can make up their own minds about whether they can assume the necessary risk to attend sporting events. And the risk to the athletes themselves—who are, by definition of being professional or collegiate athletes, healthier than the vast majority of the population—from such a nonlethal variant as omicron is infinitesimal. The NFL’s recent move scaling back asymptomatic testing for COVID is a sane step in the right direction.

Let the games go on; give a citizenry starving for a modicum of normalcy to return to their lives something to rally around. Sports at its best can be a unifying phenomenon. But in order for American sports to be unifying, it must first resist the biomedical security state’s misguided siren song of COVID hysteria.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor, a syndicated columnist and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation. Twitter: @josh_hammer.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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