Are Athletes Essential?

Robert Brooks Contributor
Are Athletes Essential?
Read Time: approx. 1:56

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on December 8, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.


Top Story from Louise Radnofsky and Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal: “Sports teams have faced intense blowback since the spring over the perception that they have received special treatment in a pandemic. Now some public health experts are weighing a counterintuitive idea for how they could help end it. They are suggesting that athletes get earlier access to the coronavirus vaccines.” Here’s what supporters and opponents are saying about designating athletes as essential so they have early access to the COVID-19 vaccine:

In Favor: Radnofsky and Cohen highlight the monumental task “of injecting 330 million Americans with a vaccine for a disease that wasn’t identified one year ago.” Not only are there logistical challenges, but “it will [also] be a vexing behavioral problem.” Some researchers are saying “That’s where the athletes would come in.” More broadly, these supporters say that “prominent people getting the vaccine and urging others to get the vaccine could help overcome widespread skepticism—especially in the Black community. Polls have shown that vaccine mistrust is greatest among Black adults.”

Against: Radnofsky and Cohen also acknowledge that “the only way for athletes to vouch for the vaccine after it’s approved by regulators is to get it themselves—early enough to participate in the advocacy campaigns telling millions of Americans to follow. [Then] delivering on the communications side of the bargain risks being seen as preferential treatment and could revive the resentment generated by the leagues’ daily testing for healthy athletes as other Americans waited days for results.” Radnofsky and Cohen write: “What health experts and public officials have to decide is whether the value of vaccinating a few hundred athletes would be greater than the cost.”

Flag This: Polls show that Black Americans are more skeptical of the vaccines than Asian, Hispanic, and white people. A September Pew Research Survey found that only 32% of Black adults said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated. Zooming out, this isn’t an issue that’s isolated to one demographic community. This past weekend, The New York Post reported, “More than half of New York City firefighters say they won’t be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the potentially life-saving shot becomes available to first responders in a matter of weeks, according to a new internal survey.” Radnofsky and Cohen say, “there is a long history of health campaigns using everyone from politicians to pastors for messaging purposes. Researchers who studied trust and communication during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 found that President Barack Obama‘s daughters receiving their H1N1 shots made a difference in parents’ willingness to have their children vaccinated—regardless of ideology or party affiliation. President Gerald Ford and his family got their shots on television during the 1976 vaccination campaign.” Whether the athletes even want the shot is another question altogether, but statistics show that acceptance by some of our society’s most famous faces could help “everyone get back in the game,” as one tag line for the program reads.