COVID-19 issues present significant distress for NFL players…

Photo of CB Tre’Davious White from TMZ.com.

To play or not to play… that was the burning question in the back of the minds of Bills fans this week, wondering if their favorite Bills cornerback would decide to play this season.

By now, most of BillsMafia already knows about Tre’Davious White’s candid discussion with the media about the stress he was experiencing trying to decide whether to opt-in or opt-out of the 2020 NFL season. His heartfelt and deeply emotional reaction about trying to make the best decision for his family illustrated just how different this 2020 NFL season will be, if indeed there is one.

White’s emotional distress about whether or not to play during the COVID-19 pandemic was painful to watch. Worse yet, his commentary also played out on social media for all the world to judge. Most Bills fans were supportive of whatever White decided, but there are always a few jerks spouting off about what is truly none of their darn business.

The psychological toll created by this type of distress is concerning for a number of reasons. First, the physical limitations placed upon players, coaches, and other staff members creates another whole layer of filters the brain has to sort through before engaging in whatever task they normally go about doing during the course of any given practice or game.

Furthermore, and as I mentioned in this recent post, proper social distancing requirements make it very difficult to establish the emotional bond required for a team to become greater than the sum of its players. Sean McDermott is rightfully concerned about how COVID-19 may alter how this this team bonds throughout the season (if there is one).

Tre’Davious White should be commended for his candor about how much pressure he felt to ensure he made the best possible decision for his family. He highlighted the significant sacrifice his family has to make for him to play football this season. It’s a sobering reality we all face, so no one should judge the choices made by any given player.

Photo from schedule.sxsw.com.

It’s also important for fans to resist the tendency to dehumanize athletes and what they are dealing with because most of us haven’t got a clue about what it takes to be be the best of the best and perform at the top of their game all of the time. People who perform any sport at the level of someone like Tre’Davious White live in a completely different world than the rest of us… who also probably live without having our innermost feelings go viral on Twitter.

Responses to players describing their decision-making about whether or not to play this season were fast and furious. In general there seems to be more negativity festering on social media lately, especially as the heat of the summer and the toll from months of social isolation continue to mount. People are understandably cranky and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

The best thing we can do for each other is be respectful regarding social distancing, but also put our foot on the brakes with respect to judging others about pretty much anything right now. We’re only beginning to understand the echo chamber effect negativity has on social media and our personal relationships as well.

Just because the “opt-out” is over doesn’t mean NFL players aren’t going to continue to experience major distress about protecting themselves and their families as they each begin the next phase of training camp. BillsMafia generally takes great pride about how we treat players with kindness and respect.

If that is indeed the case, then we should continue to be role models for other FAMbases around the league by being non-judgmental regarding choices players make with respect to playing football during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and how they go about their business this season.

And yes… always the caveat…if there is one.

Editor’s babble: It’s a rough world out there these days. Just want to pass some love your way and hope that you and your loved ones are continuing to persevere during these strangest of times. You’ll likely find me on Twitter looking for every training camp tidbit I can find @RobynMundyWYO.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BuffaloFAMbase.com. She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.