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NFL: We aren’t taking COVID-19 testing capacity away from anyone else

The Ravens are dealing with a COVID outbreak that could hurt their playoff odds. But Mike Florio and Chris Simms are more worried about how the NFL will deal with a potentially bigger outbreak after Thanksgiving.

As the NFL established its daily testing protocols for players, coaches, and essential football personnel, a question emerged regarding whether the league was consuming testing resources that could be utilized elsewhere. The league believed that wasn’t the case, because the league was creating its own testing capacity through a for-profit private company that has provided the service all season long.

Recently, the question of whether the NFL’s testing capacity is undermining the ability of, for example, health-care workers to be tested has resurfaced, specifically in this item from Kent Babb of the Washington Post.

Driving the article are quotes from front-line employees who are confused by the disconnect between NFL players receiving regular tests and the otherwise scarce availability of the diagnostic devices. The article makes no effort to explain how and why the league has managed to secure these tests, and whether the appropriate public-health agencies and officials believe the NFL is hogging resources.

The truth is that, despite any anecdotal concerns, the NFL isn’t considered to be infringing on the broader testing capacity.

“Public health officials gave our testing program the green light and confirmed that it does not affect getting tests for people who need them,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. “We communicate regularly with the CDC, the White House Task Force, and laboratory and public health experts on this topic and have been given assurances that our program does not constrain testing resources.”

McCarthy reiterated the notion, as expressed in July, that the league isn’t taking tests away from others because the league created its own testing capacity.

“We didn’t take anything away from anyone else,” McCarthy said. “The lab is a for-profit company. These tests would not have existed if we didn’t contract for them nor would there have been capacity at the lab -- for anyone -- if we weren’t paying for it. This lab hired hundreds of people because they had a client they needed to do work for the same way they contract with health care businesses or schools. In essence they set up this business to service us since we were willing to pay for it.”

McCarthy also explained that the league designed its testing system to ensure that nothing would be taken from the various communities in which NFL teams play.

“Ours is a national lab system that our lab partner drives or flies samples to daily,” McCarthy said. “There are no tests taken from the local community.”

So there’s the answer to the questions posed by the front-line workers quoted by the Post. That’s why and how NFL players are tested every day.

The NFL, which originally wanted to test players three times per week, pays for players to be tested every day. If the NFL wasn’t paying for those tests to be conducted, those tests wouldn’t be directed elsewhere; they simply wouldn’t happen, for anyone.