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The Ethics of Sports in a Pandemic: Part One

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Everyone should vaccinate, but should anyone line jump?

Calgary Flames v Dallas Stars - Game Five Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Everyday I pull into my parking spot at work. I park my car and then find my mask and phone. I open my phone and put on my mask before entering the building. Prior to entry I check in so that public health will no if I was in the building with a person who has COVID and when I was in the building if I get COVID. No caregivers can enter the building. No one who is not working can enter the school. Even parents cannot enter. The fewer people who come in, the safer we are.

This is the way it is for all schools in the division I work in. No one enters, everyone wears masks, kids remain masked at recess. These are all decisions we made and actions we take to keep our spaces safe. They are sacrifices. They mean that kids do not get to play with all their friends at recess, but it is what it is and we make our fun where we can. Why am I telling you this? Because kids of all ages have faced changes to their daily routines and caregivers have gone above and beyond to help them adjust. But hopefully this is only for a year.

A year. A single school year plus a few months before where we saw kids have to learn to do at home learning on the fly. It was hard, but they managed. They were happy to be back and followed every rule given to them while remaining kids. Teachers have been dealt a stressful hand and depending on your division, it can be really bad. Some essential workers in schools are also dealing with underlying conditions that might have effected their work before, but usually would have been well managed. This is the reality in schools all over the province.

Schools are one place that will be able to return to a new, easier to manage normal than we are currently in once a vaccine is made available to everyone and not just those people who are in high risk categories. Those precious vaccine doses will mean the world to schools who can allow their students access to the library and gym again. Who can once again allow for school teams and clubs and reading buddies again. Schools can go back to being normal busy places.

But schools are not a place where you find loads of high risk people. Those people live everywhere and are essential to how our world runs. Our high risk people are elders and grandparents who are valued parts of our families and communities to the people who have underlying medical conditions as simple as well-managed asthma that can put them at higher risk for death. All these people need access to a vaccine as soon as possible. That does not even touch those in care homes and living on reserves who have been ravaged by the disease or those that risk their lives to care for them. They also need the vaccine.

This 500 word preamble is to tell you that the NHL should not be able to purchase doses of the vaccine before the general population. They should have to wait their turn like everyone else. To quote Kourtney Kardashian, “...there’s people that are dying”. Frankly, sports right now are unethical in North America. Hospitals are over capacity everywhere, the healthcare system is at a tipping point and sports want to return.

Private Vaccinations

Maybe the most unethical move the NHL is looking at is privately purchasing vaccines to inoculate their athletes and staff before general public vaccinations happen. It is a major issue. Yes, these are all private entities acting, but sometimes while something can be done does not mean that it is moral or ethical. It is the idea that just because you can do something does not mean that you should do something. Now, there are NHLers who are higher risk due to underlying medical conditions and those players and personnel could be offered the vaccines before return to play if the league sees fit, but having them cue-jump everyone is just bad.

There are other ethical quandaries going on with the NHL and return to play. Those quandaries affect all leagues, not just the NHL, are facing. They have to figure out where they stand on these ethical and moral questions before going forward. The NHL should not be near the front of the line for vaccines though as they are mostly not high risk and are definitely not essential.