Earlier this week, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases raised a few eyebrows during a CNN appearance, warning that football might not happen this fall as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"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," Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay 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."
On Friday, President Donald Trump made it clear that Dr. Fauci doesn't speak for the National Football League when it comes to deciding when to return to the field.
"Informed Dr. Fauci this morning that he has nothing to do with NFL Football," the president posted on one tweet. "Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening," in another tweet.
The president closed the tweet with a familiar message: "However, if they don't stand for our National Anthem and our Great American Flag, I won't be watching!!!"
Fauci's comments come days after it was reported that several players for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have recently tested positive for COVID-19, including Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott. On Thursday, the University of Texas football team announced that 13 of its players recently tested positive, as players returned to campus for offseason workouts.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reported that least 30 members of the LSU football team have been in quarantine for COVID-19. There have been no hospitalizations or serious illnesses.
The "bubble" that Fauci mentioned could be similar to the one being implemented in the NBA, which plans to have 22 teams resume an eight-game regular season on July 30, followed by a 16-team playoff. All of the games would take place at a facility in Orlando, with players being confined to a campus in order to reduce risk.
Despite the NBA's agreement to return, recent concerns from a subset of players regarding health concerns and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement have put those plans in question. On Thursday, ESPN's Dianna Russini reported that NFL players had a long call on Wednesday to discuss testing and protocols in regards to training camp and that almost all players on the call agreed that they don’t want to start training camp earlier than July 28.
In a statement to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said that the league "will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment."