While many professional sports have largely been affected by the deadly coronavirus, the NFL had yet to see a positive test revealed, while going about business as usual. But Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Saints’ HC Sean Payton tested positive for the coronavirus, he told ESPN on Thursday. Payton is the first person in the NFL world known to test positive for the virus.”
Over the past week, sports media has been extremely quiet save for NFL free agency and a number of trades in the league. Due to the schedule not starting for a few months, it seems football is unlikely to be majorly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Payton, 56, longtime head coach for the Saints, who signed a five-year extension with the franchise in 2016 making him the highest-paid coach at the time, first started feeling ill this past Sunday.
Payton took the COVID-19 test on Monday but didn’t receive his results until today. According to ESPN, he is at home resting. Oddly enough, Payton never reported having a fever or a cough, a trend only found in 20 percent of coronavirus patients. Payton is planning to stay home in self-quarantine through the weekend. Peyton was previously married to ex-wife Beth Shuey from 1992 to 2014, with whom he shares two children, son Connor, and daughter Meghan.
“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have,” Payton said. “I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”
Payton Voiced Concern About the Entire State of Louisiana Amid Coronavirus
After announcing that he tested positive, Payton told ESPN, “The concern with Louisiana is the amount of people that come in and out of this area after Mardi Gras season. This is an area that doctors are concerned about. So our parents, and those that are more susceptible to this virus, deserve everyone doing their best to combat it.”
“There are hundreds of people right now in tough predicaments, fighting for their lives. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. We can easily help reduce the numbers of those impacted. We have to do our best to beat this and I know we can.”
Payton believes merely social distancing isn’t enough, the veteran NFL coach is pushing for a city lockdown to keep residents safe.
“It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.”
Coronavirus Has Hit the NBA Pretty Hard
While Payton marks the first positive coronavirus test in the NFL, the NBA, unfortunately, has had a string of infected players come forward in the past week. On Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets announced that four players on the team have tested positive for COVID-19. In an official statement the team said, “Of the four, one player is exhibiting symptoms while three are asymptomatic. All four players are isolated and under the care of team physicians.”
The statement didn’t specify which players on the team have been infected, but later on it was revealed that this group included Kevin Durant. Shams Charania tweeted, “Kevin Durant tested positive for coronavirus, Durant tells @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Durant says he is feeling fine: “Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine. We’re going to get through this.”
While Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the first athlete in the NBA to test positive for COVID-19, soon after, teammate Donovan Mitchell and Detroit Pistons big man Christian Wood were also diagnosed.
Gobert especially felt some guilt after appearing to not take coronavirus seriously and making a scene by touching all the microphones during a press conference on March 9, the day before he tested positive. Gobert has since stepped up and pledged to donate $500,000 – a portion of which will go to helping pay all the part-time employees at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the home of the Utah Jazz.