When she's old enough, Philadelphia Eagles successor Marquess Goodwin will teach her daughter Marae to put family first. He will say that when making decisions, she should give priority to the people she loves the most. He will share his choice, made five months after her birth: he will not sit on N.F.L. 2020 season.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Goodwin chose family over football, was one of 68 players who played N.F.L. listed as abandoned by Thursday's deadline, even though the league, despite a surge in transmission rates across the country, claims the season will start as planned on September 10.
The players who have opted out are a microcosm of N.F.L. Lineups: Rookies and veterans, training squads and starters, all of whom, after careful consideration, decided to reduce one risk by absorbing another. To keep themselves and their families safe, they will sacrifice a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, give up showcasing for more lucrative contracts, and, in some cases, give up starting jobs and squad spots that may or may not appear next season. ,
Within the agreement between N.F.L. and the Players Association, Players with one of 15 diseases the league considers to be at high risk of contracting the virus could earn $ 350,000 this year, while players who choose not to play will receive a $ 150,000 advance in salary next year.
Half of the players who opt out are offensive and defensive line players who are in close contact with other players during training and games. Leo Coloamatangi, a Jets striker who refused to participate, said he gave up getting infected with the virus if he chose to play.
“Wherever I play, I literally press the bear against another creature on the other side of the ball every time I play,” Coloamatangi, 26, said in an interview. "If this guy has any symptoms, I'll take them." He added: "As for me, I could not risk it."
29-year-old Goodwin couldn't either whose family has experienced a series of personal tragediesHe will not allow himself, perhaps, to summon another. His wife, Morgan, twice experienced complications of pregnancy, losing her premature son in November 2017 and then, in November 2018, twin boys.
The first time Goodwin decided to play on the same day, November 12, for the San Francisco 49ers, caught a pass 83 yards away and blew a kiss to the skies. He was with the team at a game in Tampa, Florida the following year when Morgan woke up from a fight. She invited him to return home, but she never directly said that she needed him, knowing how seriously he took his career. He flew home, missing the game to be with her.
“At one point, I told myself that I had to restrain my family,” Goodwin said in an interview. "I can't let work, check and money dictate the decisions I really want to make."
Goodwin expected training camp to be rescheduled, but when that didn't happen, he became nervous about leaving his family outside Dallas. His mother, Tamina, cares for his younger sister Deja, who has cerebral palsy, and Morgan's mother cares for her niece and nephew. If Morgan or Marae got sick, there would be no family member to take care of them. Then he heard that the security of the Kansas City chiefs Laurent Duvernet-Tardiff, the only doctor playing N.F.L., withdrew. Other players followed, and Goodwin felt more at ease joining them.
“I always hesitate to take any serious steps because you never know how N.F.L. do you know Goodwin said. "I was very excited because this was the first time in my life that I made a decision that I feel comfortable with, a result in terms of work."
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For Koloamatanga, the choice of not participating was easy in one sense: he wanted to protect his 9-month-old daughter Aurora and his stepfather Sele, who has heart problems, from a virus that killed two close relatives and infected another.
But other, more complex components were accounted for in what he called "the most difficult decision of my life." Coloamatangi held his three N.F.L. The seasons fluctuate between the training squad and the active Detroit Lions and Jets squads, but have yet to appear in regular season games. He and his agent appreciated the professional impact, and Koloamatangi discussed with his wife Athena the financial burden his family would bear if he did not play. By refusing to participate, he would, in effect, receive only a fraction of his $ 750,000 salary — an "unpleasant difference."
“I had to accept my losses and look my wife in the eyes,” said Koloamatangi. "I did this to keep my home safe."
The Coloamatangi and his family have been taking refuge in California since March. Rising infection rates in New Jersey, where the Jets train and play, prompted the team announce that he will play regular season home games without fans at MetLife Stadium or training camp.
Koloamatangi said that since mid-March, he has spoken to a union representative every day, asking questions he wanted answers to. He knew it was impossible for the NFL. fall into the so-called "bubble" because N.B.A. and N.H.L. have. But as he and Athena discussed their options, he wondered why N.F.L. refused to push back camp and season, or introduce additional safety measures such as gloves or masked helmets that would further reduce the risk of infection. Currently, the N.F.L. requires players to be tested every day for the first two weeks of training camp, and then the day after that.
Ultimately, Coloamatangi said, he didn't feel confident enough to risk the travel and contacts that involve playing his favorite game.
“I'm glad my workplace is safe, but what about when do I need to go out and get my job done?” he said. “What are you doing to ensure that I don't get the virus in full contact with the guy next to me? Imagine that all summer you realize that at some point you have to go to work, but your job says nothing about the working conditions until two weeks ago. "
Kyle Peko, a defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos, came to a similar conclusion. Peko, 27, suffers from moderate to severe asthma, among diseases the league considers to be a high risk. He has two young children and his wife Juliana, who he says has not suffered from cancer for seven months.
Their every discussion of refusal focused on the same question: How can he play football without putting himself at risk?
Withdrawn from Oregon in 2016, Peko has lived on the sidelines for the past four seasons, playing 13 games. Usually he treasures this time – reuniting with teammates, preparing for camp, fighting for a place. On July 26, two days before he was due to arrive at the camp, Peko packed his suitcases and his truck was refueled 15 hours from their home in La Habre, California.
That day, he said, he received an email from the union detailing his options, and when he realized he could keep his family safe without losing his job, he didn't hesitate. He spoke to Broncos officials and coaches, who he said respected his choice.
“Trying to go back and play football during this pandemic,” Peko said in an interview, “was just hard to comprehend putting my family at risk when I could contribute to trying to end this pandemic.”
Instead, Peko will receive the 12 credits needed to complete his college degree. Koloamatangi said he could focus on two of his operations in Hawaii – non-profit organization which provides resources for people and businesses affected by the pandemic, as well as a food delivery platform for seniors. Goodwin can't wait to get even closer to Marae.
Sometimes, at home, when she sneezes or coughs, he flinches. Then he remembers what he did and thinks to himself, "Damn, I'm glad I didn't put her in this situation."