On Sunday, star players from around the NFL executed a coordinated social media campaign to express their health and safety concerns about trying to play in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeMarcus Lawrence, Gerald McCoy, Jaylon Smith, three of the Dallas Cowboys’ top defensive stars, took to Twitter to add their voices.
Some of the league’s biggest starts such as Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and J.J. Watt were out in front of this campaign. While some of the individual messages varied with their complaints and concerns, all included the hashtag #WeWantToPlay in what was clearly an organized effort.
Interestingly, the campaign appears to have been initiated by a former Cowboys defensive star:
A note on this afternoon’s NFL player tweetstorm: I’m told the idea came from Dolphins CB Byron Jones, who suggested it on a player reps’ call as a way of getting out the message that players aren’t just trying to get out of camp. “We want to play, let’s just make it safe.”
Here is what Lawrence, Smith, McCoy, and former Cowboy Randall Cobb contributed:
I SECOND THIS! How has the @NFL had this long to prep but still have NO real plan in place? We are less than 10 days before we are REQUIRED to report! I refuse to put my pregnant wife/family at risk w/o understanding exactly what the plan for our safety & well being will be.
If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. #WeWantToPlay
The @NFL has disregarded the recommendations of their OWN health & safety committees. We have continued asking questions and have YET to receive any definitive answers. #WeWantToPlay but we also want to keep our families safe.
Echoing the words of my NFL brothers.. #WeWanttoPlay but how are we expected to do that when the @NFL is ignoring our voices by not taking the proper precautions so we can do so. They want us to report with no plan. How is that supposed to work?
In addition to the tweet above, DeMarcus Lawrence shared additional thoughts with ESPN’s Todd Archer on his concerns about playing the 2020 season without clearer and more stringent safety precautions. His wife Sasha is due to have a baby in about three months; more than appropriate reason for Tank to be worried.
Here are a few of Lawrence’s quotes from the report:
“Family is No. 1. After the game of football is done, that’s the only thing I have to depend on, so I’ve got to take care of them.”
“I know I ain’t got forever to play, but at the end of the day, come on, you’re just going to toss me around because you’ve got dollar signs in your face?”
“But my No. 1 concern is will I be able to see my family and be there for my daughter’s birth? If I can’t be, we’re really going to have to take some major difficult considerations about this season, because I’m not missing the birth of another child.”
This situation has likely had all NFL players looking at their lives and careers with a different set of eyes. For so long, they’ve viewed the physical toll and schedule of football life as what they did to given their families a better life. But COVID-19 has now forced a reassessment of risk and reward.
DeMarcus’ words here no doubt echo what so many are thinking and feeling as they consider the looming start of NFL training camps. As the pandemic numbers around the country are still rising, Week One is little over seven weeks away.
This campaign may not do anything to sway the NFL and the 32 owners on their policies and expectations for the 2020 season, but it gave fans a chance to really hear and see the players as human beings facing many of the same fears and challenges that we all are right now.
Even if the season happens on schedule, will some players like DeMarcus Lawrence choose to sit out? That is one of the biggest questions facing the NFL as it tries to keep business running this year.