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, Dec. 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.
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% 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 cancellations 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 opinion editor of Newsweek, a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, counsel and policy advisor for the Internet Accountability Project, a syndicated columnist through Creators and a contributing editor for Anchoring Truths. A frequent pundit and essayist on political, legal and cultural issues, Josh is a constitutional attorney by training and the co-host of two podcasts: Newsweek's "The Debate" and the Edmund Burke Foundation's "NatCon Squad."
An outspoken conservative, Josh opines on conservative intellectual trends, contemporary domestic and foreign policy debates, constitutional and legal issues, and the intersection of law, politics and culture. He has been published by many leading outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Newsweek, National Affairs, American Affairs, The National Interest, National Review, City Journal, First Things, Public Discourse, Law & Liberty, Tablet Magazine, Deseret Magazine, The Spectator, The American Conservative, The American Mind, American Greatness, American Compass, Anchoring Truths, Townhall, The Epoch Times, The Daily Wire, Fortune, Fox Business, Pairagraph, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jewish Journal. He has had formal legal scholarship published by the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy and the University of St. Thomas Law Journal.
Josh is a college campus speaker through Intercollegiate Studies Institute and Young America's Foundation, as well as a law school campus speaker through the Federalist Society. Prior to Newsweek and the Daily Wire, where he was an editor, Josh worked at a large law firm and clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Josh has also served as a John Marshall Fellow with the Claremont Institute.
Josh graduated from Duke University, where he majored in economics, and from the University of Chicago Law School. He lives in Miami, but remains an active member of the State Bar of Texas.