Coronavirus and Sports in 2020
It would’ve been considered impossible even when March began, but we’re living in a temporary reality of no sports.
Even as coronavirus concerns grew, the thinking was the sports would go on with the only difference being that there would be no fans in the country’s arenas and stadiums.
This all changed on March 11, 2020, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before tipoff of the Jazz’s game at Oklahoma City. That game was promptly canceled, and once the NBA finished up play for that evening, the all-league play was suspended indefinitely.
That was the first domino to fall, and by the next day, sports nationwide were called off. The NHL paused its season, college basketball conferences canceled their postseason tournaments in the middle of the action, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were canceled, and Major League Baseball put a stop to spring training games and delayed the start of their season. NASCAR and IndyCar considered racing without fans, but they also eventually called off their races for the time being.
Here’s where each sport stands as of late-March.
There are circles within the NBA who wish to push the league calendar from October-June to December-August, and those people may get their wish. The NBA is hoping to finish their regular season and play the full playoffs, but some or all of those games may be without fans. The league is targeting a mid- to late-May return, which would push the NBA Finals to August. The league will closely monitor ratings, which could lead to a change at the start of the 2020-21 season. Another option would be to cancel the remaining regular-season games and resume with the full playoffs.
Hockey is a much more physically demanding sport than basketball, so ending their season in August and resuming with the new season just a month or two later probably will not happen. The NHL is also hopeful to finish their regular season and play a full Stanley Cup playoff schedule, but it may be more logistically wise to resume their season by going directly into the playoffs come mid- to late-May.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest edict was that Opening Day would be pushed back until mid-May at the earliest. But without spring training being completed, many believe that once teams are allowed to assemble, they would need at least a couple of weeks to finish getting ready for opening day. Most optimistic projections put Opening Day into sometime in June and playing around a 100-game schedule. With most baseball being played outdoors, pushing the postseason much further past October really isn’t an option.
With the exception of having to cancel the public gathering in connection with the NFL Draft, the NFL isn’t being affected as drastically as the other sports. Offseason workouts won’t be happening, so the likely date being targeted is the opening of training camp, which is around four months from now. Whether fans will be allowed at preseason or regular-season games is still in question, but the league is optimistic to at least be playing its full schedule in the fall.
The NCAA had to cancel the men’s basketball tournament, which (between TV rights and ticket sales) is where the organization gets most of its revenue from. The NCAA also canceled postseason tournaments in all winter (including women’s basketball, gymnastics, and wrestling) and spring (baseball, softball, etc.) sports. It remains to be seen whether there will be any college baseball or softball, but it’s unlikely due to the fact that most colleges are conducting classes online for the rest of the spring semester.
Canada became the first country to announce that they will not be sending athletes to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in July. The International Olympic Committee wrote on March 22 that they would announce a decision on the fate of this Olympics within four weeks. They were adamant that the Games would not be canceled, but a one-year postponement could be the likely result.
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