President Donald Trump appeared Tuesday morning on the Fox Sports Radio show OutKick the Coverage, during which he and the host Clay Travis — a prominent denier of the coronavirus pandemic — discussed their belief that college football should come back and made the false claim that the virus poses no significant threat to the players involved.
Not only does the virus actually cause a continuing series of symptoms in many of those who contract it, known as the “long COVID” — and yes, children are affected, too — but there has also been news coverage about college football players specifically contracting the disease and suffering major illness.
Deborah Rucker, mother of Indiana University freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney, posted on Facebook about her son’s experience, describing “14 days of hell battling the horrible virus. … Now we are dealing with possible heart issues! He is still experiencing additional symptoms and his blood work is indicating additional problems.”
Sports Illustrated published a major story on this problem just last week, writing of college football players: “They’re revealing serious symptoms of the virus; groups of them are expressing issues in holding a season; and a handful have already announced that they’re bypassing 2020.”
University of Arizona receiver Jaden Mitchell tweeted: “The fact of the matter is that if this virus gets a hold of you and you experience symptoms, it will have a great impact on you.” He added that with the many players, coaches, and staff who travel as a football team, “I don’t see how that will work.”
Louisiana State University defensive end Travez Moore also tweeted his own message:
In late February and continuing through March, he aped the calamitous talking points put forth by the White House and right-wing press, insisting that the virus would prove far less contagious and fatal than the flu. Fears were powered by “mass hysteria,” he tweeted. Worst-case scenario, a “thousand” people would die, he promised on March 11, and healthy individuals younger than 80 and then 70 had “nothing to fear,” all of which soon proved starkly untrue.
But reality made it impossible for this particular shtick to continue. So he shifted gears. Travis began to post near-daily “coronavirus positivity” updates, rife with cherry-picked statistics. Should anyone poke a hole in his blinkered logic, they were and are summarily dismissed as “coronabros,” a moniker coined by Travis, as if the life-and-death stakes were a team sport with competing fandoms.
As the months dragged on and the cases continued to mount, not even those facts could stop Travis, as shown by this tweet from June:
In fact, a New York Times analysis in July found that since the pandemic began in March, “179,000 more Americans have died than would in a normal year.”
By going on Travis’ show, Trump not only elevated the public profile of an incorrigible peddler of misinformation on the pandemic, but also continued spreading false statements that threaten public safety and the health of athletes. And Fox served as the platform from which this dangerous propaganda was broadcast.