Last night on Twitter, a startling news story broke that Major League Baseball veteran outfielder Ian Desmond opted to skip the 2020 season in its entirely.
Citing legitimate risks to personal health caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the safety concerns voiced by his family, the Colorado Rockies outfielder who began his career way back in 2004 when he was one of the final draft picks ever by the now-defunct Montreal Expos, announced he will not play given current conditions.
Desmond, who has spent his career with three different teams – Washington, Texas, and Colorado – voiced no apparent hesitation with his decision. In fact, the outspoken vet listed several additional grievances with the structure of the majors, including the way minority players are treated by management and executives.
According to the CBS affiliate Denver:
In a lengthy statement, the Rockies outfielder announced he will not play major league baseball this year, citing concerns for his family amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Desmond also reflected on issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, cheating scandals and more within MLB, and highlighted a need for change across the organization.
Desmond's self sidelining foreshadows a thundering storm of discontent on the horizon. We could be seeing the beginnings of a looming wave of professional athletes in all four major North American sports who may conclude among themselves that playing in the current environment simply isn't worth the risks. Should additional star athletes join Desmond and skip the season, the impact could be devastating.
Consider these questions: At what point would sports be de-legitimized by top athletes remaining at home? Would fans accept replacement games played by substitute players? How tarnished would the games be if the best players aren't participating?
One suspects that money will rule over reason, because that's usually what happens. Owners, television networks, sponsors, and certainly the fans want to watch pro sports. And, many athletes live the high life and have exorbitant expenses which might be a tipping point to keep on playing, despite the risks to health and career.
However, many pro athletes are already very well set financially – especially the top players in most sports. It doesn't make much sense for the likes of Tom Brady, Lebron James, Clayton Kershaw, and Alex Ovechkin to risk their health to play what amounts to an abbreviated season. What happens if one of these players gets sick, or worse, suffers a serious illness? Is a big fat paycheck really worth playing again, if the superstar is already financially set for life?
You can bet that every pro athlete is asking himself that question, right now.
One suspects Ian Desmond isn't the exception. As more time passes and major sports are delayed – the less likely, it seems, that some players will come back. So, Desmond might be the sign of more opt-outs to come.