As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the world by storm, professional and amateur sports leagues across the country have had to respond swiftly and cautiously.
Just moments before the NBA’s Utah Jazz game tipped off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020, the game was canceled. A decision that came after the NBA announced the league would be suspended until further notice as one player from the Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.
It was only two days prior that the player who tested positive, NBA All-Star Rudy Gobert, jokingly touched every microphone and audio recording device as he finished his press conference in response to being asked by reporters about the coronavirus.
After it was revealed that Gobert’s teammate, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the virus, the entire NBA moved swiftly to test players who were potentially exposed and to issue cautionary and preventative measures to ensure players self-quarantine.
Pistons’ Christian Wood became the third NBA player to contract the virus. On Tuesday, it was reported that four Brooklyn Nets players also tested positive for COVID-19 and among them was NBA All-Star Kevin Durant according to The Athletic.
“Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” Durant said. “We’re going to get through this.”
The NBA’s announcement to postpone the remainder of its season for at least 30 days, set into motion a domino effect among the rest of the sports leagues around the United States due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
One of the first dominos to fall was the slate of scheduled college basketball conference tournaments that initially released a statement that the various tournaments would be played without spectators in attendance and with only essential personnel in the arenas.
Once the NBA elected to postpone the season until further notice, within hours of one another the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12, AAC and Big 12 conferences all canceled their respective tournaments.
Ultimately, the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s tournaments along with the spring NCAA championships were also canceled “based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat,” according to a statement released by the NCAA. The statement read, “our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to [the] spread of the pandemic,” was a top priority and went into the decision to cancel the tournaments altogether.
Players took to social media to share their disappointment at the cancellation of the tournaments as for some players, the tournament signifies the culmination of their college careers. Many coaches and other related staff believed the tournament could have been postponed instead of canceled completely.
Though it was announced that at least two college basketball officials tested positive for the coronavirus in the Northeast Conference and Colonial Athletic Association respectively.
This marks the first time since 1939 that NCAA will not crown a men’s champion and a first for women since the NCAA took over the tournament during the 1981-82 season.
Concerns around the pandemic would not only inspire unprecedented changes for the NCAA, but the NFL also will deploy changes to this year’s NFL Draft that will take place April 23-25 in Las Vegas. The league shared that while it will still host the draft in Vegas, it will not be hosting its annual draft events that were supposed to be open to the public.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority—the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” wrote NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the [Las Vegas] Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft.”
Last year’s NFL Draft fan event attracted 600,000 to Nashville and was projected as one of the largest events canceled due to the coronavirus. However, the NFL did kick off its new season with free agency on Monday, Mar. 16 as planned.
Due to the coronavirus, the league was forced to cancel its annual meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida that was set to take place Mar. 29 through Apr. 1.
Leading up to the NFL Draft, teams have also implemented changes to their coaching staff, scouts and personnel banning them from conducting in-person visits. This has caused several colleges to cancel or postpone pro days.
As football players are preparing for free agency and the draft, Major League Baseball (MLB) would normally be in the midst of spring training. The MLB, however, has suspended spring training games and delayed the start of its regular season, which was scheduled for March 26.
The MLB’s 2020 Opening Day is expected to be delayed by at least two weeks in accordance with a CDC recommendation to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks according to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Major League Soccer (MLS) has followed suit as it suspended matches for 30 days with plans to reschedule postponed games on the back end of the season.
It was confirmed that a member of the Seattle Sounders support staff tested positive for coronavirus and has been placed in isolation.
Should the 26-team league that spans across the United States and in Canada, uphold the 30-day pause, United would resume April 15 with a game at home against Toronto FC.
A statement released by United said, “The safety of our supporters, players, and staff is our number one priority, and we feel that these measures are the appropriate response and course of action to support health authorities’ ongoing efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreading.”
Similar efforts were made across the National Hockey League (NHL) as league Commissioner Gary Bettman announced it will pause the regular season with 189 games remaining.
The XFL, America’s newest professional football league, announced Sunday that a member of the Seattle Dragons tested positive for COVID-19 in addition to a part-time employee of CenturyLink Field that worked an XFL game and as a result, the league has been suspended.
“The league is alerting players, staff, vendors and partners associated with the Dragons, Roughnecks and BattleHawks,” the XFL said in a statement. “The XFL is monitoring the situation closely and taking every measure necessary in accordance with recommendations set forth by the CDC.”
Leagues across the country have moved swiftly in their response to the ongoing developments on the spread of coronavirus. Many of the players who have tested positive have expressed concerns about being asymptomatic. With sporting events suspended for the foreseeable, players, coaches and fans have been forced to live out the reality of what the world looks like without sport