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NFL ankle monitors cause a stir on social media

Image for article titled Just what in the world are these ankle monitors on NFL players?

Illustration: NFL

If you’ve watched any NFL games recently, you may have seen a blinking red light on one of your favorite players.

These anklet sightings have created some hysteria among NFL fans wondering what they could be. Are these players on work release, house arrest restrictions? If that’s the case, what crimes did they commit? It makes sense that fans would think this after players like Antonio Brown had issues of their own with ankle bracelets a few years ago. Some fans believed these were StatCast monitors that helped the NFL monitor data like top speed and distance runs for certain players. That sounds like something the NFL would do. NFL players have been doing it on their own for years. It only makes sense that the NFL would start implementing some of their own too.

The answer, boringly, is neither of these are the truth.

I reached out to the NFL to find out what exactly these things are. In reality, these monitors are nothing more than devices for contact tracing. Players actually started wearing these Kinexon monitors last season as part of the NFL’s measures to mitigate the effect that COVID-19 would have on the season. The flashing red light you see is part of the device’s programming. It lights up whenever the device is within six feet of another person wearing the device. This feature is meant to help promote social distancing among players when they’re off the field. Obviously, social distancing isn’t exactly something players can do in the middle of games.

So, why are we only seeing these devices now? Well, the devices have always been there, players have just been hiding them. “Most players have a pocket sewn into their jerseys. Some have [the device] in their pads,” said an NFL spokesperson. They’re all wearing the devices, just not everyone has it on their ankle.

The NFL isn’t the only pro sports league to implement contact tracing devices on its athletes either. The NBA has experimented with these same Kinexon SafeZone devices in the past. Major League Baseball followed suit with devices of its own prior to last season.

These devices are not indications of players currently under house arrest with conditions allowing them to go to their home fields for practices and games, and honestly, we should’ve known that from the get-go. Chargers’ running back Joshua Kelley, one of the people seen in-game wearing the device around his ankle, is a really swell guy. He used his opportunity on a national stage at the NFL combine to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

I would be shocked if there were any criminal charges against him. The man clearly has a caring heart.

With the Chargers’ lead back Austin Ekeler in COVID protocol, likely to miss this weekend’s game against Houston, Kelley could have a great opportunity to show off his device this weekend, proving that he has been more COVID-conscious than his backfield counterpart during this pandemic.

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