(Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

When tragedy strikes the world, escaping to the court or the field can heal the wounds of life. They can’t do that now.

The onset of COVID-19 has caused everything to shut down. For sports fans, there’s no longer a way to escape reality. The NBA suspended its season on March 11. Since then, the NHL, MLB and other leagues have shut down their season too. To many, there’s one man to blame, and that’s Utah Jazz NBA player Rudy Gobert.

Before the two-time Defensive Player of the Year became the first NBA player to contract COVID-19, he joked about the outbreak. He even went as far as to touch every microphone during a press conference to prove the outbreak is no big deal. He tested positive days later just before a game in Oklahoma City. He might have caught the virus by touching the microphones but it’s hard to pinpoint where he caught it exactly.

What followed was a barrage of backlash, as if he’s the reason everything’s shut down. People should end the Rudy Gobert slander though, because up until two weeks ago, no one took this virus seriously and now everyone’s paying the price.

Despite warnings from the World Health Organization and local and federal government officials, they were ignored by the public. Different information clashed on news sites. Fox News misinformed its viewers by comparing the number of deaths to the flu. Trish Regan of Fox News called it an attempt to impeach the president of the United States. As a result, people didn’t know if this was the next Spanish Flu, or the common cold.

When leagues shut down, people were quick to point their Twitter fingers at Gobert. He was the reason the sports leagues were shut down, they said. Gobert’s carelessness made him a scapegoat for fans that can’t enjoy the games they love.

Was he careless? Yes. Should he have been more responsible and taken this outbreak seriously? Absolutely. But putting all the blame on him takes people’s eyes off the real issues: the late responses from governments and the poor reporting in the United States that support Trump and use the stats to compare COVID-19 to the flu. Not all of it is bad. Just some.

Gobert also passed the virus along to his teammate Donovan Mitchell and possibly a young fan who he interacted with a week before.

Still, if it wasn’t Gobert didn’t contract it, it would just be someone else. This virus doesn’t care about your fame and fortune. Celebrities infected now know this.

The story of Gobert giving a young fan the virus just a week before while giving the fan some game-worn gear after a game in Detroit was more dangerous because it can’t be proved. Spreading false narratives about Gobert helps no one and only scares and angers people.

The Rudy Gobert saga was a wakeup call for himself and America to take COVID-19 seriously.

He since donated $500,000 to arena workers affected by job losses and said he wants to use his story as a cautionary tale. Testing positive was punishment enough. He learned his lesson and now, everyone’s eyes are open.