Koloamatangi and his family have been taking refuge in California since March. Rising infection rates in New Jersey, where the Jets train and play, prompted the team to announce they would play regular season home games without supporters at MetLife Stadium or at training camp .
Koloamatangi said he had spoken with a union representative every day since mid-March, throwing out questions he wanted answered. He knew it was impossible for the NFL to enter a so-called “bubble”, as the NBA and the NHL did. But as he and Athena debated their options, he wondered why the NFL refused to postpone camp and season, or introduce additional safety measures – such as gloves or helmets with masks – that would further mitigate his risk of infection. As it stands, the NFL testing protocol requires players to be tested daily for the first two weeks of training camp and then every other day thereafter.
At the end of the day, Koloamatangi said, he didn’t feel confident enough to risk the travel and contact that comes with playing the game he loves.
“I’m glad my workplace is safe, but what about when I have to go out and do my job?” he said. “What are you doing to make sure that when I come in contact with the guy next to me, I don’t get the virus?” Imagine spending a whole summer realizing that you are going to have to go to work at some point, but your job said nothing about your working conditions until two weeks ago.
Kyle Peko, a defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos, came to a similar conclusion. Peko, 27, suffers from moderate to severe asthma, among the medical conditions the league considers high risk. He has two young children and a wife, Giuliana, who he says has been cancer-free for seven months.