Patriots

Why Dr. Anthony Fauci's hypothetical NFL 'bubble' could be problematic

Patriots

If the NFL wants to have a 2020 season, it may have to follow the NBA's lead.

That's according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the White House's coronavirus task force, who told CNN's Sanjay Gupta he's pessimistic about football proceeding as scheduled unless players and staff are in an isolated environment with rigorous COVID-19 testing.

"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," Fauci told Gupta. "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."

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That's obviously not what NFL or college football fans want to hear, and it led many to speculate about the NFL constructing a "bubble" similar to what the NBA will have when it hosts 22 teams at Orlando's Walt Disney World later this summer.

But should the NFL really go the bubble route?

Beyond the numerous complications of a football season in the bubble -- NFL rosters are nearly four times bigger than NBA rosters -- NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran believes playing the season under such a format would be a bad look for the league.

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"I think that the optics of it are absolutely reprehensible," Curran told host Gary Tanguay on Arbella Early Edition. "Look, the more you consider it, we have two leagues, the NBA and the NFL, which are predominately Black leagues.

"We're going to take those players in a non-essential business and sequester them, separate them from their families, restrict their movement, all for the entertainment of the masses? So we have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves and bet on the games and the billionaires don't go broke?"

Curran raises an issue that some NBA players are currently debating. Many players have been actively protesting racial injustice and police brutality in their communities following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black men and women by police officers. Some players are wondering whether it's appropriate to pause that activism to play in a self-contained environment for the entertainment of fans, all while leaving their family and friends behind.

The NFL has the benefit of time, as it can see how the NBA's "bubble" format unfolds in August before making a call on the 2020 season. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills responded to Fauci's comments by saying the league will be "flexible and adaptable" to "adjust to the virus as needed," per ESPN.com.

But football is a much different sport, and the higher rate of injury could give players another reason to balk at putting their livelihoods on the line this fall.