The US Government Has Apparently Made Professional Athletes ‘Essential Workers’

All of the athletes that made special thank you videos honoring essential workers will now have to thank themselves after the United States government has added pros to the list of essential workers as sports leagues try to restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

News broke on Tuesday that the acting head of the department of Homeland Security has declared pro athletes to be “essential workers,” apparently further clearing the way for sports leagues to return to work amid a global pandemic. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that the order came down as the league plans its restart.

The move was the latest in a series of sports-related decisions that included allowing athletes abroad to return to the United States despite travel restrictions to and from certain countries put in place as COVID-19 spread. The news also came along with the NHL’s official plan to finish its season with a special 24-team postseason tournament that’s expected to start in July.

While the move is largely a legal distinction that may ease some difficulties in getting a season back up and running, it does show that the Trump administration is clearly invested in seeing sports come back despite the inherent dangers that come with easing social distancing guidelines while the novel coronavirus spreads without effective treatment or a vaccine. Athletes are not needed to provide essential services to the nation, but their entertainment value has apparently made their worth roughly equivalent in the eyes of the government.