Commentary: College and professional sports cannot beat COVID-19

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: College and professional sports cannot beat COVID-19
October 21
12:47 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Athletes are accustomed to winning and losing. Their minds are wired to compete. They are motivated and driven to win and to do their best.

I was a college student-athlete and know first-hand the single focus that I had to have to win tennis matches.

Sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. As fans in the stands, we put sporting events on our calendars. They become a priority and must-see events. Sometimes, we cancel other activities because we want to watch the big game on television.

How many times have you heard a friend say not to call because they will be watching a sporting event on television, or will be there in person? We have a fascination with sports in America.

Sports figures are heroes in the eyes of many people. If you are in the public square, you talk about your favorite player or team. Some of us can get really hyped when talking about our teams, in my opinion.

Thankfully, I have stopped that practice. Years ago I realized those athletes were not paying any of my bills, so my heartache over a loss did not last too long.

Now sports has come up against an opponent they cannot beat – COVID-19. It has been around for seven months and has caused distress and loss of life. Currently, there are over 219,000 people who have lost their lives due to this sickness.

Before the coronavirus, I had never heard the word bubble associated with athletics. Soon after COVID-19 hit, professional sports like basketball and hockey started to play in bubbles. These bubbles were limited to players, coaches and other personnel. The pro basketball bubble was in Orlando, Fla., at Disney World. The pro hockey bubbles were in Edmonton and Toronto.

Interestingly, these arrangements worked out for these two sports. Professional sports like baseball and football that didn’t create bubbles have not been so fortunate. In my opinion, the main reason for their misfortune is they travel to different locations and have fans in the stands. However, some will take a different view about this situation.

COVID-19 created cancelled games because many of the teams tested positive. The Miami Marlins baseball team readily comes to mind as several of their games were cancelled. Despite this, they did make the playoffs.

This virus has made professional sports take a time out. No longer is it business as usual.

College football has also had to cancel or suspend their operations. Going back, some football programs just cancelled their seasons. The Ivy League said no to playing football this season. The CIAA, a conference made up of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said no to football, too.

This was not an easy decision for them to make. They said in their press releases they were putting the health and welfare of their student-athletes first and they meant it.

On the other side of the field, you had the Big Ten Conference, the Southeastern Conference, and the Atlantic Coast Conference. They decided to play football this season.

The Big Ten Conference at the beginning said they would not play; however, they changed their mind. Christine Brennan, sports journalist for the USA Today said the Big Ten caved into the pressure.

Conferences that decided to play have had numerous COVID-19 cases. In fact, at least 30 games had to be cancelled or postponed. Recently, Dan Mullen, coach at the University of Florida, tested positive. The LSU-Florida game was recently postponed until a later date because 19 players from Florida tested positive.

While some may disagree, money has been a factor in to play or not to play. Is this putting these student-athletes at risk?

Regardless, the mantra is play on!

James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years.  He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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