On a call with Southeastern Conference officials and medical advisers, several football players expressed concern over their safety and well-being during the upcoming season.
In an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post, players were told that there would be outbreaks of COVID-19 within teams and the league “can’t prevent it.”
“There are going to be outbreaks,” one official told players on the call, per The Post. “We’re going to have cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey noted that while they are doing their best as a league to create the safest atmosphere possible for the players, competitors will need to be aware that “there aren’t any guarantees in life.”
“Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life,” Sankey told the players on the call. “… My advice is you’re going to have to go live your life in this environment. I think that’s the challenge that we’re trying to meet.”
In response, the players – who have the option to opt out and retain their scholarships, if they so choose – asked if the season is “worth having” knowing there is so much uncertainty.
One of the strongest voices on the call? Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II, who said the SEC’s response and method of attack simply isn’t enough.
“You guys have answered a lot of questions the best way you could, and we really appreciate it. But as much as you guys don’t know … it’s not good enough,” Magee said on the call. “We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible. But it’s just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that’s still circulating in the air, y’all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. … I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can’t control.”
Among the other concerns for players on the call included long-term effects on those who contract the virus and being around other students on campus who may not be taking safety precautions seriously, thus jeopardizing their time on the field.
“The problem is a lot of this we don’t know,” Marshall Crowther, a sports medicine physician at the University of Mississippi, said of the long-term impact. He added that most people seem to avoid lasting effects, though there has not been enough time to conduct long-term studies.
“It’s one of those things where if students don’t come back to campus, then the chances of having a football season are almost zero,” another official said, adding that student-athletes should be prepared to sit six feet apart and wear face coverings in class. “As un-fun as it sounds, the best thing that you can do is just try to encourage others to act more responsibly and not put yourself in those kinds of situations.”
Following the Washington Post’s report, the SEC released the following statement on the matter:
The SEC hosts videoconferences with the SEC Football Student-Athlete Leadership Council to engage in candid conversation, share information and develop greater understanding of issues important to our student-athletes. The calls are intended to be confidential to encourage honest conversation. We are provide our student-athletes with this forum and appreciate their willingness to engage with us on a regular basis.
Wednesday a call was held, with the participation of our medical advisors, to provide insight and respond to student-athlete questions resulting from the unique environment produced by COVID-19. The information we gather while engaging with student-athletes helps inform Conference decisions and provides an opportunity to share information with our campus leaders to further enhance our continuing support of the student-athlete experience. The student-athletes on the call expressed appreciation for the honest dialogue, indicated the discussion was beneficial and requested a similar videoconference in the future. As we all work to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, we will continue to support the health of SEC student-athletes.
Read the Washington Post’s complete report here.