In Ben Volin’s latest mailbag, he answers your questions about the NFL and coronavirus, Dr. Fauci’s recent comments, Colin Kaepernick, kneeling for the anthem this season, and more (emails were edited for punctuation and length):
From Michael Stone, M.D.: STOP bashing Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci does not work for the NFL. Ensuring that the NFL has a season so 32 wealthy owners can recoup money and you have something to write about is not his job. He has no responsibility to “engage” with the NFL, but in fact he has: He said the players may need to be essentially in a bubble to make this work, if at all.
It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the next 6 months, but Anthony Fauci has a superb track record in giving us, in broad strokes, what to expect. Dr. Fauci told us what would happen as we “re-open.” He was correct.
There was no Fauci bashing in my column from June 18. I was simply pointing out that Dr. Fauci’s comments did not jibe with the multitude of other infectious disease experts who have expressed cautious optimism that the NFL and other pro sports will be able to conduct their seasons this fall. Fauci’s comments struck me as odd, because I have yet to see another expert who thinks a bubble scenario is any way possible for the NFL. And in my June 21 Sunday Notes, I wasn’t criticizing Fauci for not “engaging with the NFL” — just simply pointing out that that was the case. The NFL was not too happy that Fauci hasn’t been working much with them, then came out of left field to drop a giant dose a pessimism.
Meanwhile, everything I wrote turned out to be 100 percent correct, because even Fauci himself walked back his comments and blamed the fallout on people misinterpreting his comments.
“My statements about the NFL season have been misinterpreted and taken out of context,” Fauci said on Tuesday. “I provided advice from a public health standpoint. The ultimate decision is not mine but that of the officials of the NFL and the players themselves.”
The reality is that no one, not even Dr. Fauci, knows what the pandemic is going to look like this fall. And the NFL certainly knows it faces an uphill battle to keep the virus contained and get in the entire 2020 season. But everyone wants to play — owners, coaches and the players — and the NFL is utilizing a lot of brain power (CDC, Duke University and more) to try to pull it off.
From Bill Wright: Social distancing and “in Bill we trust.” Just like high school administrators Bill will figure it out and use it to his advantage.
No doubt, if there’s one coach you want leading your team in this highly unusual year, it’s Bill Belichick. The cancellation of spring workouts and the changes coming for this season will make it quite difficult for coaches to get their players ready to play. But all 32 teams will be under the same set of circumstances, and there is no one I’d rather bet on than Belichick to be able to find unique ways to prepare his players and take advantage of whatever situation is given to him. The Patriots may still take a step back this year, but Belichick’s handling of the pandemic should be good for an extra 1-2 wins.
From Chris Ridgeway: When I saw that the Patriots were donating $1 million over 10 months to grassroots organizations, I wondered, how much of that will be negated by donations maxed to Trump 2020? It would be something if the owners who are really interested in social change, back it up by looking at their checkbooks, and look at the ledger and see what they are really influencing, and not just PR moves.
This is a great point, and one the Patriots will have to deal with soon enough. The Patriots have supported Black Lives Matter on their social media feeds, and have written several impressive checks for the community during the pandemic. But the Patriots have been Team Trump over the last four years, thanks to support from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and you can bet that the Patriots players will be watching intently to see how their bosses support Trump this fall.
You’ll notice that the Patriots are one of a handful of teams that still hasn’t announced if it will support players who kneel during the anthem. We’ve also heard absolutely nothing from Belichick about social justice initiatives or the protests. The Patriots may be doing a lot of great work, but if Kraft continues to donate $1 million to Trump’s inaugural campaign, and Belichick continues to write Trump letters on the eve of the election, their support of the Black community will ring hollow.
From Dave Pill: You never will hear from the owners. The Commissioner is a shield. The Commissioner is used as a tool to hide the owners from accountability to their communities, their employees, their society. They are trying to retain fans – without offending the fans who think Kaepernick is a traitor to the nation.
Roger Goodell is certainly a shield for the owners, and I’m very curious to know how many owners agreed with Goodell’s decision to speak up in support of Black Lives Matter and that he hopes Kaepernick can find a job in the NFL.
But I’ll give credit to several teams who have stated unequivocally that they will support their players, like the Steelers, Titans, Lions, Bills, Texans, Cardinals, Falcons, Eagles, and Redskins, among others. In many cases it was the head coach, not the owner, announcing the team’s support, but at least someone in authority made the proclamation.
Still waiting to hear from Kraft/Belichick and Jerry Jones, however.
From Thomas Hayes: It would be a nice gesture if the owner of the Washington football team would change the name. Is it at all possible for the [Globe’s]sports writers to stop using that name and refer to them as the Washington football team?
I have struggled with this decision for several years. I try to use the nickname as little as possible for obvious reasons, but it’s still the team name, and avoiding it 100 percent of the time is difficult as a writer.
Still, changing the team name is long overdue. Daniel Snyder is doing everything he can to avoid it — supporting BLM, supporting players who want to protest, removing the name of former racist owner George Preston Marshall from his stadium and team literature. But the only move that matters is changing the team name, and Snyder is still refusing.
From Darren Clevenger I’d be interested in an update on Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser, especially in light of the ongoing protests throughout the country. Did he actually have his offensive tattoo removed? Is he doing anything else for (or against) the movement? As you know, the Patriots themselves, wrongly or rightly, have an image problem in the #BLM movement — I’d like to see how they and Rohrwasser are acting and reacting.
I don’t have an update on Rohrwasser and whether he got the Three Percenters tattoo removed (he said he would). I wouldn’t be surprised if Rohrwasser wears long sleeves all season, just to cover up his tattoos and not give us all a look.
From Biff McGilpin: Ben — I’ve been arguing that Colin Kaepernick has to be better than at least a few of the sixty some-odd QBs currently in the NFL. The example I’ve used lately is the signing of Joe Flacco as a backup! He hasn’t been any good since late in his Ravens career. I’m not a Pats fan, but think he would be perfect for them. Let’s hope there’s a season and he is signed.
Since 2017, the argument that Kaepernick isn’t good enough to deserve a roster spot has been pure hogwash. He may not have been worthy of one of 32 starting jobs, but he absolutely deserved to be among the 80-100 quarterbacks signed to an NFL roster. And he still does, even though he hasn’t thrown a pass in a real game since 2016.
There is certainly some momentum to Kaepernick getting signed, and I think whichever team does it will be wildly popular not only with the fans, but will earn a lot of respect from the players. But so far, all 32 teams remain cowardly and have not given Kaepernick an earnest chance.
As for the Patriots, they’d be a good fit only because they have uncertainty at quarterback. But I don’t think Kaepernick would be a great scheme fit behind Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer [Ed. Note: And now Cam Newton.] He’d be a terrific backup for Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen or Gardner Minshew.
From Franny Canina: Nice column (as usual), but I’m not sure about Kaepernick’s desire to play in the NFL. All Kaepernick has to do now is announce that he wouldn’t mind playing behind Russell Wilson, thus putting the ball in Pete Carroll’s court. It would be too awkward for Seattle at that point not to bring him in. I think Kaepernick realizes he’s more effective outside the game insofar as his political image/stance goes. His stature would take a hit if he were to ride the bench.
Now this is an opinion I agree with. While the NFL teams have certainly blackballed Kaepernick, and I absolutely support his mission and believe he deserves to be in the league, there are legitimate questions about how sincerely he wants to get back into the NFL. We never see videos of his workouts, and Kaepernick hasn’t done much as far as engaging teams on his own.
It is far more effective for his image and brand to be known as “the guy who was banned by the NFL” than to be “the guy who got a second chance with the NFL and didn’t do much with it.” I also find his partnership with Nike to be distasteful, given their poor history with workers’ rights.
From Ryan Paschal: Do you think Bill Parcells will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame while he is still living? I think it’s ridiculous he wasn’t put in years ago. What do you think? Is it a personal grudge against him?
Parcells is still paying for his sin 23 years later, though it was a big one — essentially bailing on the Patriots during Super Bowl week. But it’s time to put old grudges aside and vote Tuna into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
The Patriots were a total laughingstock before Parcells arrived (a year before Kraft bought the team). He turned a loser franchise into a Super Bowl competitor in four years, drafted many of the players that would deliver three Lombardi Trophies, and introduced Kraft to Belichick.
The fans are never going to vote for Parcells, so the Krafts need to do what’s right and put him in by an owner’s decree. It’s a joke that Parcells is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but not the Patriots Hall of Fame.