Summary: There is nothing like having a good plan spoiled by one “infected” apple. And for Major League Baseball, that apple came in the form of LA Dodgers Player Justin Turner, who joined in post-game celebrations hours after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.
The Dodgers broke a 30+ year losing streak while building an entirely 2020-themed controversy and exposed the risks of non-compliance by a single person. Now, the MLB must decide if there will be ramifications, while Dodgers players sit and wait to find out if they—or their family members—contracted the virus.
When the LA Dodgers celebrated their 2020 World Series win after clinching the last game of the truncated MLB season, players grabbed the famed trophy and passed it around from teammate to teammate. They kissed the trophy, shared it with family members, and posed for photos. This win was more than 30 years in the making and happened during a season of stops, starts, and infections, so this was indeed a bright spot and a time to celebrate.
However, what overshadowed the excitement and accomplishment was the controversy over LA Dodgers Third Baseman Justin Turner, who was taken out of the game and brought into isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test result. The debate wasn’t about Turner leaving the game, being in isolation, or over his play during the game. Instead, it was about Turner’s actions on the field after the game when the celebration began.
Bottles popped, cheers shouted, and Turner joined his teammates on the field. He held the trophy alongside his wife, celebrated, and posed for both masked and unmasked photos. All while being infected, although asymptomatic, with COVID-19.
WTH was going on?
About two hours before game six of the series ended in a Dodgers victory, Turner received his COVID test results. Because of the positive outcome, he was pulled from the game and sent into isolation where he could watch, but not participate in, the remainder of the game. But in a decision made by Turner and (clearly) accepted by the team and the leadership, Turner returned to the field to celebrate the championship.
What was leadership thinking when they allowed this to happen? Did team members believe they were immune or safe from being infected? Did they even know?
While it was likely an impulsive decision, it broke the rules teams agreed to as a condition of play, so it should have never happened.
But what was Turner thinking? Based on his tweet, he was thinking about himself and his fear of missing out on celebrating the big win—at the potential expense of his family and team’s health.
With both support and frustration, fans applauded and criticized his decision and voiced concerns about others’ health.
So why does this matter?
While Turner’s teammates are now in the “waiting period” and may or may not be quarantined, this could turn into a classic case of how patient zero can infect many in a short timeframe. This non-compliance and reckless regard for the rules is precisely what so many fear when working tirelessly to instate procedures, guidelines, and protocols. And it’s preventable.
Based on Turner’s actions, we can learn these lessons:
We must anticipate every situation by offering rules that empower smart decision-making. No one likely thought about the implications of a player testing positive during the last game of the World Series and running onto the field. The rules may not have been specific enough to call out this situation (there was a grey area). Turner took it upon himself to make a quick decision, and it’s likely that others didn’t know what the ‘right’ or compliant thing to do. Consider giving students assessment questions that allow them to ask questions that lead to the right decision if an uncommon scenario arises.
Non-compliance causes headaches. Not only is this event a potential super-spreader event, but it is also a huge headache for everyone involved—the players whose health may be at risk, the league that must decide what to do, and the leadership that allowed this to happen. What if a teammate contracts the virus and becomes deathly ill? These are situations no one wants to navigate.
The stretchier the rules, the more they will be stretched. Consider what we saw with the NBA. If someone violated a rule, they were out – end of story. Because the rules were concrete and created an environment of compliance, the season was successful. However, the MLB had hiccups and glitches. The rules had caveats, and teams were not held to the same standards.
With these lessons learned and Turner’s actions demonstrating how one non-compliant individual can rock the boat, we know there are ways to stop the spread and ways to watch it spread. Which will you choose for your school? Will you be part of the solution or continue to fuel the problem?
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