Payton in contact with high profile trainers at Oaklawn Park

Saints coach Sean Payton and others in the winner’s circle at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

BLACKFOOT – I have been doing a lot of thinking the past several days about the effect of the COVID-19 on us and the people surrounding us.

I have followed the sporting world for a number of years and have watched and listened to people who have ignored others’ advice on a variety of topics and COVID-19 is not any different from anything else that has been suggested along the way in the form of do’s and don’ts.

One of the most recent things that has crossed my desk or computer was the recent admission by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton of contracting the COVID-19 virus and I have been following some followup situations that have occurred because of actions by Payton since that time. None of it is good and this is not a condemnation of Payton, just a comment or two about what has happened in the days that have followed his visit to the famed race track Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark.

While there, and contagious, Payton came into contact with people and afterwards announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19. My question is: Why did Payton act so irresponsibly at a time like this when everyone knew that travel had been restricted and that people should not be out and about? I can only hope that Payton has been more conscientious about contact with his players and personnel with the Saints. The future of his team and parts of the NFL, who has withstood this challenge to this point, could be disastrous to the league, players, and teams because of Payton’s irresponsibility. All of us hope that this occurrence is not repeated anywhere else in the country.

Since his visit to Oaklawn Park, high profile trainers Thomas Amoss, the trainer of the winner of the Azeri Stakes, and Jeremiah Englehart, trainer of the fourth place finisher in the Rebel Stakes, Three Technique, have both self-quarantined themselves and have isolated their staff due to potential contact with Payton. Amoss tweeted March 19 that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after learning that Payton — who was in the winner’s circle with him at Oaklawn Park March 14 — tested positive for COVID-19. The trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time” but feels great and has no symptoms.

Amoss, whose primary winter training base is Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans, was at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., to watch Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress win the March 14 Azeri Stakes (G2) by 6 1/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. Fair Grounds and Oaklawn raced last week, mostly without spectators.

Payton was photographed with the winning connections while holding the Azeri trophy.

Reached Thursday, Amoss declined to comment beyond his tweet, saying he is still collecting his thoughts.

The Rebel Stakes (G2) followed the Azeri. Three Technique, a horse with NFL ties, finished fourth in the Rebel for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and jockey Luis Saez. Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm owns the son of Mr Speaker.

Parcells, like Payton, is a Super Bowl-winning coach, and Payton was once an assistant to Parcells.

Ironically, Payton discussed the implications of COVID-19 when interviewed by TVG’s Britney Eurton last weekend.

“I think the thing that is lost in it all is that, for us that are maybe younger, it’s one thing — we could become obviously infected and carriers, but the way you must feel if you’re an older person, that’s something you would never want,” Payton said in the interview. “Neither of my parents are alive, but to have that fear of being in that age group affected the most is certainly frightening.”

On Thursday, Kevin Grigsby, the senior vice president of programming and executive producer at TVG, issued a statement on Twitter regarding Payton contracting COVID-19 and his interaction with TVG staff.

“Any known employee who has come in contact with Payton has been contacted and will be self-quarantining for the recommended time provided by the CDC,” he tweeted. “We have no reports of any illness at this time.”

Earlier this week, TVG and NBCSN announced Eurton would host television coverage of racing from Fair Grounds Saturday. But a news release distributed by TVG Thursday said broadcaster Caton Bredar would be on-site there.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com reported Payton decided to get tested for COVID-19 after having cold-like symptoms.

The contact that came about with not only high profile, nationally ranked trainers like Amoss and Englehart, there were the owners of the horses, the jockeys and the fans who crowded into the winner’s circles with them.

Not only that, but the entire staff of TVG that was in attendance at Oaklawn Park and working with the crew that televises the races from the Hot Springs facility. That included Brittney Eurton, who did a personal interview with Payton at the time.

The actions of Payton are part of the reason that people with symptoms have been requested to not venture out and come into contact with others.

This is part of the social distancing that has been suggested and almost mandated from the start by the Center for Disease Control. Not only has Payton possibly endangered a number of people he was in close proximity with, but how about the nearly 50,000 fans in attendance, not to mention those who were in the plane when he traveled to the race track. This also includes contact with cabs or rental car companies, hotel personnel, restaurant employees and others who work at or around the racetrack.

This total disregard of the safety of others at this time of what has turned into a major health pandemic is simply irresponsible on the behalf of Payton.

Hopefully, this will not in any way, shape or form put any other NFL players or employees in jeopardy when, thus far, the NFL has escaped any real threat to their upcoming season.