Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 6 of the World Series by a score of 3-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays, earning their first championship since 1988. It was a well-earned victory which concluded in a well-earned victory celebration. On the field celebrating, however, was Dodgers third-baseman Justin Turner, who had tested positive for COVID-19 that night. The question arises: In a pandemic, how could this possibly be allowed to happen?
By the start of Game 6, Turner and the Dodgers were awaiting inconclusive test results. And while the results were pending, the MLB determined it was acceptable for Turner to play in the game. By the seventh inning, the test results showed that Turner was positive, so he was pulled from the game and replaced by Enrique Hernandez at third base. The first, and possibly most egregious mistake is that the MLB allowed Turner to play in a game when his COVID status was unknown. If he had tested negative, there would be no harm done, but what kind of standard is that to set? Instead, Turner spent seven innings on the field, maskless, chatting up every Rays player and third base coach who landed at the hot corner. Unless, unbeknownst to the public, the Rays were made aware of the situation and deemed they were fine with it. That’s ludicrously unfair to a team of players risking their health to even play in the game. Now, after a crushing defeat in the World Series, instead of returning to their families, the Rays have to quarantine until they produce two negative tests.
The part that is not the fault of the MLB is that after the game, Turner returned to the field to celebrate. It’s perfectly understandable that an LA native would want to celebrate winning the trophy he’s dreamed of his whole life, but this was an undeniably selfish decision. Had Turner decided to remain sidelined, he could have become the face for unselfishness in a time when the world desperately needs a role model in this regard. Instead, Turner disregarded the warning of a security officer, entered the field, removed his mask, took team photos next to cancer-survivor Dave Roberts, kissed his wife and hugged his teammates. There were well over a hundred people on the field, including reporters, league officials and team family members, some of whom were pregnant. Were all of them aware of and okay with Turner’s positive test? I doubt it.
By all accounts, Justin Turner is a good person. And it’s a great story that an LA kid grew up to win a championship with his hometown team. But that achievement will always have an asterisk now. And no, it’s not because the 2020 MLB season was only 60 games. It will be because Turner disregarded protocol, put hundreds of people at risk and decided that his ability to celebrate was more important than the safety of others. Furthermore, the MLB should be ashamed that Turner played seven innings of a game with an inconclusive test. Both Turner and the MLB need to be held accountable for this ridiculous disregard of the health of the players and their families. This is not okay.