New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder said that after pursuing God and listening to the Holy Spirit, he has decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, citing his family's "health concerns."
Solder made the announcement on Wednesday, saying in a joint statement with his family shared on social media: "My family and I have been praying, wrestling and listening to God about our current circumstances and whether it is best to play football this season. Our primary goal is to pursue God and listen to the Holy Spirit in everything we do. As hard as that can be and as daunting as what He asks us to do can seem, we have come to believe, trust and wait on the Lord.
"This is why we have chosen to pause for this season," the statement read.
"Our family has health concerns, most notably our son's ongoing battle with cancer, as well as my own bout with cancer. We also welcomed a new addition to our family this spring, a baby boy," the father of three said. "With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order and, for us, our children's health and the health of our neighbors comes before football."
“We fully recognize that being able to make a decision like this is a privilege,” he said, adding that he will "miss" his teammate and coaches.
"As scary and bleak as it sometimes can be, we know that God of the universe has all things under His control, and His plans are and will always be for our good," he concluded.
The 32-year-old athlete’s son Hudson, 5, was diagnosed with rare Wilms tumors in his kidneys in 2015, when the boy was just three months old. He underwent surgery to have one of the tumors removed last year and underwent a third round of chemotherapy during Solder's 2019 season, according to Boston.com.
“We know how much we’re struggling, but people see the way God is carrying us through, the joy that it brings knowing we have an eternal destiny that’s far beyond what’s here on earth,” the Christian athlete said to Billy Graham.org at the time. “We know we’re not alone in our suffering, and that our suffering is for a reason.
Solder is also a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer during a routine physical prior to the 2014 season when he played for the New England Patriots.
“I just know how frail everything is, how easily it can be taken away and how fortunate we are to be out here every single day,” Solder said. “But I have my priorities set, and my top priority is God and then my family. When those things are squared away, everything else falls into line. My faith in the Lord is so much bigger than anything we’re doing here, so much bigger than the Super Bowl.”
The NFL is offering players who are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19 the opportunity to sit out the season, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. All of the CDC's defined "increased risk" categories are covered as "high risk" under a deal made last week between the NFL and National Football League Players Association.
Per the agreement, athletes who choose the option will receive a $350,000 stipend for the season and their contracts will be tolled until the following season. Additionally, the players will also receive an accrued season toward free agency and benefits and salary credit for a credited season.
Several athletes have since chosen not to play in the upcoming season as COVID-19 persists across the country, including Baltimore Ravens' De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs' Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Dallas Cowboys' Maurice Canady, and Seattle Seahawks' Chance Warmack.
"We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players, and club and league personnel," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials. The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl."