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Opinion | Save us, Nick Saban

As his state continues one of the worst and most deadly COVID responses in the nation, Nick Saban has done the opposite.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

There is a mask mandate in the University of Alabama football program. There is a social distancing mandate. There is a leader currently pushing impressionable 17- to 22-year-olds to get the COVID vaccine, and he’s managed to coerce 100 percent of his players and staff members to be vaccinated, and the team is 92-percent boosted. 

The tyrant responsible for these atrocities? 

Head coach Nick Saban. 

If there were any justice in this world, he’d be Gov. Nick Saban. 

Hell, at this point, I’d let him be emperor. Or king. 

That’s how desperate I am for someone with just a smidge of common sense to run this state. For someone who takes a look at a problem – like, say, a plague that’s killed more than 16,000 Alabamians in less than two years – and believes we should take basic, obvious steps to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens from that virus. 

That’s what Nick Saban has done within his football program. He was one of the first to implement a mask mandate and social distancing. He encouraged vaccines among his players and staff – and he did so by discussing the real-world ramifications of remaining unvaccinated, both in terms of their health and their ability to get playing time. (He’s also managed, somehow to keep the Omicron variant from running wild through his team as they prepare for the college football playoff on Friday. In the meantime, other bowl games are being canceled left and right.)

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Saban has cut public service announcements encouraging safety protocols. And he hasn’t been shy about speaking up about the virus, the vaccine and what his staff is doing to communicate the importance of and facts about vaccination to the players. 

What he’s done hasn’t been political. Or controversial. Or even really noteworthy. 

There was this serious problem, so he implemented obvious safeguards to combat that problem. Those safeguards aren’t foolproof. But they’re better than doing nothing, and they might just save a life – or, at the very least, a career – and so these simple things – like putting a piece of cloth across your mouth and nose – are worth doing. 

In the meantime, as the FOOTBALL COACH is using common sense to protect people , the politicians of Alabama – and let’s be clear, I’m talking about the Republicans who run this place – are making a grand show of doing absolutely nothing … and then resisting the common sense measures others are taking. 

Recently, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that she wrote a letter in which she “pushed back” against President Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate, which required federal contractors with more than 100 employees to require those employees to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has a press release every other day to announce his latest signature on a lawsuit someone else wrote to challenge anything that a Democrat might do to fight against this deadly pandemic. 

We should emphasize the “deadly” part. Because it is. Very deadly, in fact. More than 800,000 Americans have died from this plague in less than two years. More than 16,000 Alabamians have died. Hundreds of thousands more have been hospitalized, and many of those who recovered enough to be discharged will tell you months later that they’re still not right.

And our people are fighting WITH the virus.   

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With their silly grandstanding – pretending that infecting your neighbors with a deadly virus is some testament to personal freedom – and outright lies. All of it meant to garner cheap votes for a group of politicians who have no clue how to govern. 

Is it any wonder then, given our rightwing-dominated state – that these words and actions from our state’s leaders have led to the second-worst vaccination rate and the third-highest COVID death rate? 

Because, as Saban has proven, leadership from the top on this issue – particularly leadership that leans on common sense and ignores political expediency – can make a huge difference. 

Saban isn’t some tyrant who demanded it out of his players. In fact, he’s said publicly that he hasn’t required the vaccine, and that his staff has listened to the concerns of their players. He called it a very tough decision for some players, and he said he understood those concerns. 

He brought in doctors, allowed the hesitant players to ask questions and work through the pros and cons. He dealt in facts and rational thought. 

In the end, even those players who were hesitant got the vaccine. And then 92 percent of them got the booster too. 

That’s the difference that good leadership can have. That’s the positive impact that a good leader can have on people, particularly those who are confused and searching for the right answers. 

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It’s a shame Alabama the state doesn’t have the same level of leadership as Alabama the football team. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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