James Harden
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

COVID is still wreaking havoc on professional sports.

Professional sports have a serious problem.

It isn’t CBA negotiations (except baseball). It isn’t off-field conduct, either. It’s still COVID, and the implications on all three active major sports is unprecedented.

As of Tuesday, the NFL had 100 players in COVID protocol. Wednesday morning began with news that Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stafanski, who has received both shots and a booster, has tested positive as well.

The NBA is dealing significant issues of their own. Ja Morant, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and ten Chicago Bulls are among those who are currently in COVID protocol. The league had to postpone two Bulls games this week already, and more may be coming as teams deal with outbreaks.

The Bulls went big in the offseason and have legit playoff aspirations. But key players missing from significant games is impacting their record, which will ultimately hurt their playoff seed (assuming they make it).

And the whole Kyrie Irving issue is another headache altogether for the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets.

Hockey is also having their issues, with the biggest immediate decision looming. The Calgary Flames had two games postponed this week and the Carolina Hurricanes had their game on Tuesday night postponed.

The NHL and NHLPA are still waiting to make a decision about whether or not their players will participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Rosters are supposed to be announced in January, but that may not happen as some of the protocols in China have rightfully scared players and teams. Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner has already stated he will not play.

What has become overwhelmingly clear is we cannot keep athletes from giving COVID to each other when they’re playing. And even with the shots (and booster), anyone can get it.

The good news is the vaccines work. Many players who were vaccinated in every sport are reporting either no symptoms or mild issues.

But fans are watching games with stars missing. And playoff races are already being seriously impacted.

These are huge problems. The Cleveland Browns are in the thick of the NFL playoff race. The Chicago Bulls look like a potential Eastern Conference favorite — when healthy. And the NHL had already made concessions in their scheduling to accommodate the Olympics, making rescheduling games harder.

The question each league and respective players’ union needs to answer is how to deal with these issues. The NFL will not let teams reschedule games, and it’s late enough in the season that any cancellations would be catastrophic.

We want to see teams in every sport performing with all of their players on the field, court or ice. But we also need to be concerned about their long-term health, and COVID is a real concern.

There are no easy answers for how to move forward for the NFL, NBA or NHL. But the issues are only getting worse as we get closer to Christmas.

Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.