The Orlando Pride had to withdraw from the NWSL Challenge Cup after 10 of their players and staff tested positive for COVID-19. It was later revealed that the origin of their exposure was likely related to some Pride players going to bars as Florida began reopening businesses, which included both outdoor seating and limited capacity indoor seating. Many of the players are understandably upset and frustrated that their possibly only chance of getting meaningful competition this year has been cancelled.
Ashlyn Harris wrote in her Instagram story: “Sitting in a testing drive up on a few hours of sleep. Sleeping on opposite sides of the house from my wife. My teammates and staff separated from their families. I’m disappointed, sad, scared, frustrated and all of the things in between.” (Note: Harris was getting testing from the county in addition to testing available from the Pride.)
Harris followed up on this post with a plea for fans to stop searching for clues as to who the original Pride players were that most likely exposed their teammates to COVID-19 by going to bars.
To the fans... My ask is that you stop digging for things that cannot change the situation at this point. My hope is you start checking in and supporting these players and the staff. We could use some positivity and love. Thank you. Stay Safe. -Cap— Ashlyn Harris (@Ashlyn_Harris) June 23, 2020
Sydney Leroux was also upset, which comes into particularly sharp focus given she has two young children at home and her husband, Dom Dwyer, is himself in preparation with Orlando City for MLS’ return to play in Florida.
I’m heartbroken. The majority of our team & staff worked our asses off to put us in the best position to play the game we love again. Not just for ourselves but for our families, friends, fans & our city. Good luck to the teams going to UT. Wish we were there with you. Stay safe.— Sydney Leroux Dwyer (@sydneyleroux) June 22, 2020
Jade Moore, who was willing to jump through the hoops of clearing immigration testing and isolation, was also disappointed.
Gutted is an understatement!— Jade Moore (@jade_moore20) June 23, 2020
Gutted I’m not going to get out to join the team and start my new adventure.But I’m more concerned at this time over the health and safety of my teammates & staff members! Health definitely prevails at this sad time and I hope my team recovers well! https://t.co/4Kak6VY7vy
It’s not hard to see how the team might feel angry, upset, and betrayed. Even in a normal year, going out to bars during preseason can be frowned upon, but to do so at a time when the consequences for such a lapse in judgment can be not just season-ending, but life-threatening, is beyond foolhardy. True, Florida has been opening up businesses, but there was a level of common sense that was simply absent. In spite of all that, Leroux tweeted that it was a team failing, which is perhaps more grace than you or I would afford someone who had damaged our ability to do our jobs and exposed us to a potentially lethal virus.
One thing I’m not going to stay quiet about is this. This is completely unfair to put on a coach and our staff. Unfortunately, WE are the reason this ship sunk. Period. https://t.co/drjHJVqEFs— Sydney Leroux Dwyer (@sydneyleroux) June 23, 2020
Or Leroux simply knows that what’s done is done, and however the consequences play out internally, both she and Harris seem to feel there’s no point to playing the blame game externally. Let’s join them in hoping the players and staff who tested positive remain asymptomatic, and that no one else was infected.