Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Santa Clara County exec responds to 49ers over Shanahan’s comments on sports ban, says NFL shouldn’t be playing

Nov 30, 2020 at 3:01 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made headlines on Sunday when he criticized Santa Clara County officials for their lack of communication regarding the new COVID-19 restrictions, which are now in effect. They prohibit collegiate and professional contact sports in the area, including team practices.

The new restrictions will force the 49ers out of Santa Clara. The team will set up shop in Arizona and use State Farm Stadium, home of the Cardinals, as a temporary replacement for Levi's Stadium. That means the team's next two games will be played in Glendale, Arizona, rather than Santa Clara, with the first kicking off in one week against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. San Francisco is also scheduled to host the Washington Football Team on December 13.

The 49ers say they learned of the new restrictions while boarding their plane for this past weekend's road game against the Los Angeles Rams.

"For all of our players and coaches, and everyone on the plane, and our wives to find that out while we're getting on a plan, and no one to tell us, it was just extremely disappointing," Shanahan told reporters after the 23-20 win. "... To find that out through a tweet or a press conference, where I have an entire plane coming to me, I have all wives, everyone's girlfriends, everyone's family members, kids, saying what they heard there."

Santa Clara County executive Dr. Jeff Smith fired back today at Shanahan and the 49ers, questioning why the team was so surprised by the news.

"We have been in contact with the 49ers for months on a regular basis, including discussions about their recent outbreak," Smith said via The Mercury News. "The 49ers clearly have been aware of the rising case rates here and around the country, the fact that hospitals are filling, and the challenges they and other teams have had in controlling transmission between players, staff, and families.

"The situation has been the subject of discussion throughout the NFL. The decision by the NFL to stop activities in the last few days is evidence of the fact that even the NFL recognizes the seriousness of the pandemic. It is hard for me to believe that the 49ers were surprised by the new orders given how serious the situation is both locally and across the country.

"They received a notice of the new orders as soon as the orders were finalized, at the same time, we notified the thousands of businesses impacted in the community. It is impossible to notify anyone of the final decisions before they are made."

Smith not only questioned the 49ers' reaction to the new regulations, but he questioned the NFL's — and any sports league's — decision to play amidst a pandemic. The NFL has made it clear that it intends to finish its 2020 season despite the many obstacles that have presented themselves.

"Historically, sportsmanship has been about building a team and protecting that team," Smith said. "Coaches, managers, and owners used to want to protect their players from harm. Those values seem to have been placed on hold during the COVID pandemic.

"If leaders want to protect their teams and communities, they should not play anywhere until it is safe. One might envision a reemergence of team-building if the teams spent their time building a COVID relief fund for the community rather than trying to put the community at more risk."

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