As sports have returned to the American landscape there is one sports organization that has seemingly gotten everything right (there are some issues this league has had with not allowing players to opt-out because of medical conditions that have raised questions). Their efforts to combat the Coronavirus have been aggressive and in the best interests of players and fans. They have answered the call to the social upheaval taking place not with rote responses but genuine responses on an individual, team, and league level.
The sports organization I’m referring to is not Major League Baseball or even the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League (which is actually exempt anyway as they aren’t playing in America). Rather, the organization in question is the Women’s National Basketball Association. If you’re wondering what this has to do with baseball then you really should have been paying attention from the start.
From the very onset, the WNBA has attempted to tackle the Coronavirus head-on. They managed to meld the desire of owners to make money with the safety concerns of players in a way that made sense. They chose a bubble location and went to work on making sure that the bubble location would be as safe as possible for the players and any ancillary league and team staff. There were some bumps along the way, the aforementioned medical opt-out issues, but the WNBA took the Coronavirus seriously on a level that can only be matched by the NBA.
That is unless we take players into account as well. While the NBA has done a decent job of policing its players it has still had to police them as they have attempted to leave the bubble, go to parties, bring things into the bubble, etc. The WNBA bubble has been more self-contained because WNBA players have treated the pandemic and the idea of the bubble with the utmost sincerity. When they voiced concerns about housing the league listened and made changes. The WNBA never had a testing issue because they made sure that testing would be handled proficiently and expeditiously from the word jump.
Meanwhile, in MLB land there were issues with tests, with entire teams losing games due to outbreaks, and with safety protocols that were ineptly put together and sparingly followed. The woeful Coronavirus response within baseball’s largest organization started at the top but it continued down to the players. MLB did not, and still has not, put adequate safety protocols in place. The players showed an unwillingness as a group to follow those protocols either way. It’s no surprise that MLB’s season has been a disaster up to this point.
All the while WNBA players and teams started making social statements. They spoke on issues like George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, the Coronavirus, income inequality, etc. They pushed back against a government they believed was letting the American people down and against a police force that they believed had become toxic. This came across as organic in the WNBA, not calculated or half-hearted like MLB’s response. The WNBA looked outward and inward while MLB glanced outward and ignored their ugly insides.
When all is said and done people should look back at this pandemic and question how sports organizations/leagues responded to what was happening in our world. None have been perfect, but some have been far better than others. MLB has been exceedingly fake and processed in their response to the social issues of the day. A few players putting together heartfelt responses that managed to resonate do not override MLB attempting to stifle individual responses and refusing to actually reflect on their history of racism. In every way that the WNBA has succeeded as a social entity, MLB has failed miserably.
When you roll the entire package together there is only one sports organization left standing tall. It sure as heck isn’t MLB with it’s lackluster and inept responses to both Coronavirus and society’s ills. America’s Pasttime let down America in the way they returned and in their unwillingness to be honest, transparent, and real. They opted for manufactured soundbites while the WNBA offered the rawness of their players’ grief, anger, and sadness. The WNBA has treated Coronavirus as a real threat while MLB has treated it as a mere annoyance. WNBA has shown how a sports organization should act and react, while MLB has displayed all of America’s faults for the world to see.