Notre Dame Begins Practice with COVID, Social Justice Issues Looming

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Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly met the media today via Zoom, as the Fighting Irish have now begun practicing for the 2020 season. As of this point, they’re still in just helmets, not full pads, with the players having been on campus working out already for six weeks. The two themes of summer 2020 in America are COVID-19 and social justice. Kelly discussed both topics today in detail.

Thursday was also the day that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the US could see “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” if people do not follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

When you combine coronavirus with the annual regular flu season, well you can extrapolate what that means for the prospect of finishing a college football season.

We agree wholeheartedly with what Kelly said, the full quote:

“We saw this, right, when we flattened the curve as a country. And then we got all giddy and thought we had it licked. This is something that you have to do for a long time. This is hard. This is where you have to really show some grit and stick with it day in and day out or it’s going to jump up and really get to you. We’ve seen that nationally.”

He’s right! We have to get it together people! Science isn’t something you can choose to “believe” in or not.

Kelly had a lot of praise for how his roster has managed the pandemic protocols.

“There are many more challenges than whether we’re going to be executing a scoop block on a three technique and whether we can run the right coverages in certain situations,” Kelly said. “We’re going to get to that and we’re going to be OK there.”

“It’s managing all these other things that can be taxing and consuming and require such a great attention to detail from our players. They have been unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. How taxing does this become over the long haul?

According to ND Insider: “Of the 619 COVID-19 tests administered to Notre Dame football players and staff, only four have produced positive results.” The Goshen News reports that the university “tested all 11,836 students returning to campus for the fall semester, which began Monday. Out of those tests, only 33 came back positive.”

Of course, things will likely change once the full contact (the polar opposite of social distancing) starts. ND has not done any tackling of any kind since the Camping World Bowl.

“You’re not going to go through a pandemic without having positive tests,” Kelly continued.

“We’re going to continue to be transparent. We’re going to have our good days and we’re going to have our bad days.

“We’ve been vigilant when it comes to education. We have an informed student body. We have one that understands that their behavior will dictate in a large degree how positivity rates go up and down.”

As it stands, the Big Ten and PAC-12 have cancelled their seasons, the Big 12 plans to go ahead, while the ACC (where Notre Dame will compete in 2020) is still seeking medical information and guidance.

Moving from COVID-19 to COVID 1619, as some call it, Coach Kelly said the team is planning on holding another event to persist in their fight against systemic racism. The Notre Dame football team staged a the StaNDtogether Unity Rally on the Juneteenth holiday a couple months ago. 

“They’re really about activism, so you’ll see them before you hear about them, in terms of what our football team is going to be doing,” Kelly said.

“It’ll be over the next month or two … (senior defensive end) Daelin Hayes has been involved and we have a number of other players who have been really instrumental. So, it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to impact a number of things that we wanted to address as a football team and a program.”

The University of Notre Dame knows full well what it’s like to be discriminated against and held down by systemic prejudice. In the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of their power, anti-Catholic sentiment ran rampant. 

A big reason ND didn’t get into the Big Ten was due to anti-Catholic biases. To all in the Notre Dame fan base and Fighting Irish community reading this, please read up on the aims and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.

You can’t say that all lives matter until you actually recognize that black lives matter.

Secondly, in order to beat this pandemic, and safely have football this fall, so please spread the following message and follow the rules: stay home, avoid crowds, wash your hands and most importantly, wear a mask.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TVSports IllustratedChicago Now and SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for Chicago Tribune.comon Twitter and his cat on Instagram.

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