NFL players are being left with a difficult choice as we get closer and closer to training camp. On one hand, they have to play to maintain their livelihoods; on the other hand, the NFL is pretty clearly struggling to figure out how to make players as safe as possible.
But Tampa Bay Buccaneers star left tackle Donovan Smith, who will be blocking Tom Brady’s blindside in 2020, doesn’t want to be part of the NFL’s little experiment. Taking to Instagram, Smith declared that he is “not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on” and feels he won’t be safe at work.
That statement was part of a lengthy statement Smith made directed at the NFL. He also criticized the reports that the NFL will mandate a 35-percent pay cut to players and feels that they should be getting a pay raise for risking their health to play.
“The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things,” Smith wrote. “Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking.”
Ultimately, Smith is very concerned about the prospects of the 2020 NFL season being safe. And he’s questioning whether it’s worth playing at all.
View this post on Instagram
@nfl @nflpa To whom it may concern: With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my fellow “coworkers” across the league. The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many “hows” that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times. Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.
Smith certainly makes a lot of strong points. The clear and obvious health risks of playing may far outweigh the benefits – especially if it means sacrifice parts of their paychecks.
It remains to be seen if Smith will maintain this stance through training camp and opt out of the season. But if he does, he may be the first of many.