In a wide-ranging conversation on the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Miranda Warnings podcast, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith details the mass testing and contract tracing program that has enabled the 2020 season to take place amid the ongoing pandemic.
With reports of an outbreak with the Tennessee Titans, the testing protocols and contact tracing program are now under the microscope. During his interview with Miranda Warnings host David Miranda, a former NYSBA president, Smith says the protocols the NFLPA put in place for its contact tracing program are firmly grounded in science and the best public health practices for preventing the spread of the virus determined to date.
“If someone tests positive, we immediately isolate and quarantine those individuals,” Smith explains. “Then they cannot be reinstated back into the overall population until they have enough negative tests. Initially, we had higher concentrations when we began training camp in late July but because we’ve been able to quickly identify where the virus is and snuff it out, we win.”
Smith also criticizes President Donald Trump for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that if he had focused on facts instead of opinions, the country would have a far lower COVID-19 fatality rate.
“I’m convinced that if the country had the same leadership, vision and diligence as the people in football, our country would be back to work right now,” Smith says. “I’m borderline angry about where we are in the country because I think what we found out was that with adherence to science and dedication to a plan, you can actually get work back in the United States – even if that work is work that theoretically probably posed the greatest risk of transmission of this virus.”
Smith also discusses his conversations with players about the role they play within their communities and how proud he is of them for being on the right side of history when it comes to protesting racial injustice and police brutality.
“Our players were here four or five years ago and I’m proud of the fact we’re on the right side of history then and we’re on the right side of history now,” Smith says. “The fact that the league and some of our sponsors have come to embrace our position is wonderful.”
Prior to leading the union, Smith served as counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in the U.S. Justice Department and served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He is decidedly not a fan of how Attorney General Bill Barr is currently running the department.
“He is running the department into the ground,” Smith says. “I think what he’s done and what he’s come to represent as Attorney General is an extremely poor reflection on the ideals of the department and certainly contrary to the mission of justice that all attorneys who work in the federal system would want to see.”