Golf was one of the first sports to return amidst the pandemic, for obvious reasons.
Played outdoors across sprawling properties, with limited if any contact between players, it’s hard to have a professional sport with less risk of transmission during competition. For the players, that is. But to broadcast golf requires a large number of crew members, both on-camera and off, in many different places around the country.
According to a complaint from the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Golf Channel hasn’t done enough in terms of testing to protect some of those crew members from a potential COVID-19 outbreak, even alleging that multiple infections have occurred due to lax standards.
From Dave McNary at Variety:
The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has accused the Golf Channel of not providing regular COVID-19 testing for crews responsible for broadcasting portions of the PGA and LPGA Tour, leading to “multiple infections.”
The below-the-line union said while players and caddies have received rapid COVID tests prior to events, Golf Channel’s behind-the-scenes workforce is not afforded this same benefit. The union said the lack of testing has led to multiple infections among broadcast crews whose work requires substantial travel between locations and whose craft does not always allow for social distancing.
“With crews constantly traveling and coming into contact with players, other crew members, and event volunteers, broadcast workers are concerned that without regular testing protocols it’s a matter of time before a Golf Channel show turns into a spreader event,” said Justin Conway, who represents Golf Channel workers with IATSE.
That certainly sounds bad, though Golf Channel disagreed with that characterization:
“Golf Channel’s tournament productions are following all recommended guidelines to keep employees safe with protocols in concert with partner-specific and local governance rules at each event’s location,” a rep said.
(The local note is key, because golf has gone to many different states and cities across the country since its return, and as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, not every state and local government has responded with the same level of stringency.)
Maybe the most alarming of the union’s allegations is that Golf Channel isn’t doing as much as other networks broadcasting golf. It’s not a great look for Golf Channel, which recently saw a round of layoffs hit multiple departments. Considering the massive increase in rights fees the channel is facing as part of the recent round of PGA Tour bidding, it’s tempting to look into these claims as an example of skimping on worker safety. Obviously that might not be the case, but perception matters too.
Hopefully this gets resolved one way or another, as long as one of those ways involves adequate testing and protections for crew members.