What the MLS is Back tournament was like from a journalist who covered it

Due to COVID-19 tournament access was limited, News 6 sports journalist Nathaniel Rivas was one of the select few

The view from the media area at the MLS is Back tournament (Nathaniel Rivas)

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Now that the MLS is Back tournament has concluded, I wanted to reflect on what it was like for a non-bubble member to cover games.

Every time I got approved for a credential, I breathed a sigh of relief. Only one credential was given out to each outlet, and I was the only person approved for News 6 WKMG. The application process was done online through a form and selecting what matches I wanted to cover.

The day of each match at 2 a.m., MLS sent out a health screening assessment form. This included questions about whether or not I had any COVID-19 symptoms, if I had traveled abroad, if I had been around anyone diagnosed with the virus, if I had any reason to believe if I had been exposed or if I had a fever at any point.

Once I arrived at the ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex, I was stopped by a security guard. Everyone except for the player’s buses had to go through this security check. For the first match, I had to get my name on a list. The rest of the matches, I showed my credential to get inside.

Media members parked in a grass lot outside of the basketball arena. It was a long walk to get to the temperature screening tent while carrying camera equipment.

Our credentials had a chip on the bottom that was used in scanning two different times: once to activate the temperature check and another time to verify the screening assessment was completed. For the temperature check, I stood in front of a camera, and it took my temperature that way.

The media members consisted of videographers from the different outlets, local reporters and photographers. The photographers and videographers shot from a specified area each time. On one field, the photographers and videographers were in a barricaded area about 10 feet behind the video board surrounding the field. On the other field, videographers stood behind a tall fence and the photographers sat in front of that fence. I felt like a kid trying to peer into a backyard pick-up game just to see a piece of the action.

Masks and social distancing were required at all times. I was reminded by Disney security when waiting to go through the bag check. MLS staff reminded me when shooting in the barricaded area or behind the fence.

Personally, I felt safe when covering these matches. Both MLS and Disney did a great job with signage and making us all aware of the protocols and guidelines. MLS staff fought to get local media some space to shoot the game, even if it was a small area.

In total, I covered seven matches, including the opening match and the championship. MLS is now set to move on with regular season games and the MLS Playoffs later this year.


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