Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller appeared at a charity event Monday at DragonRidge Country Club to raise money for his foundation, and some of his teammates were in attendance, without masks or regard for gathering indoors with a crowd. The city of Henderson, Nevada, has fined the country club for hosting the event, and Raiders owner Mark Davis said Tuesday the team was looking into why the players did the thing the NFL explicitly told them to avoid if they wanted to play this season.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the other Raiders at the event included Jason Witten, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow, Nathan Peterman, Derek Carrier, and starting quarterback Derek Carr. Per the report, they were socially distanced when in their seats, but that was the only real precaution they took. Waller wore a mask, although that larger group of players didn’t, at an event with over 100 people, more than double the state’s recommendation for an indoor gathering.
This is a team whose leadership has handled the coronavirus in a, uh, unique way. Head coach Jon Gruden reportedly tried to scare his players straight during a video meeting in August by pretending he was out with COVID-19, then this month revealed he actually did previously test positive and didn’t want to talk about it. He was also fined $100,000 by the NFL for not properly wearing a mask in Week 2, and separately said he was trying to “crush this virus” and “beat it into the ground.”
Both the state and the NFL have said to not do precisely what these Raiders players did Monday night, not just for their health but for the health of other people around them. This upcoming Sunday, Carr, Renfrow, Jones, and the rest of their team will play against the Buffalo Bills. None of these players or coaches are in a bubble. The NFL’s only real dissuasive tactic at this point is issuing fines, though today it sent a memo threatening suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks if teams continue to half-ass the protocol. Oh, and this morning the league postponed the Steelers-Titans game scheduled for this Sunday after the home team had four players and five staffers test positive for the coronavirus.
The NFL managed to get through the first three weeks of the season without any coronavirus-related issues, but as the Titans’ positive tests have demonstrated, it doesn’t take much to start putting some real strain on the schedule. Cramming into a hotel ballroom with 100 maskless people isn’t going to help the margin of error.