With the 2020–21 season only weeks away, the National Football League is still trying to find the right answers to questions about player safety. Some big-name stars are speaking out about whether or not they will be willing to play this season, and under what conditions.
Meanwhile, as the kickoff of training camp moves ever closer, the league needs a substantive narrative that shows players and fans games are ready to resume.
Behind the scenes, the NFL has been working with the players’ union to forge an agreement that will allow games to be played. Sports media reports that the two sides have crafted a 40-plus-page document that will govern how practices and games will be conducted.
Among the information released to the press update to facilities protocols that, the NFL says, are based on recommendations from medical professionals and athletic trainers. However, as of this writing, one major point of contention remains: how to manage COVID screenings and potential transfer. Masks appear to be a nonstarter, so the league and the PA are exploring other options.
Initially, the league tested facemasks, working with equipment manufacturers, but players did not have it. So, back to the drawing board.
Speaking to the media, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said there’d been some “robust discussion” around the idea of what would work for players while offering effective protection: “From the start, the NFL Players’ Association, their medical advisers, their engineers, have been engaged with us… We’ve also had a dialogue with players along the way, trying to look at early prototypes and developments…”
One such “development” has been a face shield designed by Oakley, a brand which already makes visors for players. Hundreds of players use visors, so that could be a winning — and relatively easy — transition. And, it appears the initial hurdle has been cleared. Players responded much more positively to face shields than they did to face masks.
Speaking to the media, NFL Engineering Committee chairman Dr. Jeff Crandall said, “Oakley would start with this design and say, ‘Do you like this one better than this one…’ or ‘How’s your field of view on this one?’ … In the end, they did have feedback from players. This was their choice for the players they’ve evaluated so far.
They (Oakley) came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible… you want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction… maximize comfort. I think each player is going to have an evaluation for themselves in terms of exactly how they favor one concept versus another…”
Oakley’s proactive involvement in developing a fast and workable solution to this challenge could offer significant positive PR for the brand. While a staple brand in many sports, Oakley is less-known for football-based products.
However, with thousands of teams at every level of the sport trying to find a way to play safely this fall, the company that leads the way on this solution could reap significant financial and public relations rewards.