Thursday was a day that no one that would – or could – have ever seen coming, as sports comes to a halt. For the first time in history, all major sports leagues currently active are suspending their operations and their seasons. The NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA and MLS are all responding to the challenges seen trying to control the coronavirus, and have taken drastic measures in order to try to prevent the virus from spreading further than it already has. This year’s sports scene has essentially been brought to a complete standstill, leaving athletes and fans unsure of how to proceed.
All Sports Comes To A Halt
As of Thursday afternoon, the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball had suspended their regular seasons for periods of roughly four weeks. The NCAA canceled all spring postseason tournaments, which means there will be no men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
MLS suspended its operations for a month, while NASCAR and the PGA has chosen to continue its events – including this weekend’s PGA Players Championship – albeit with no fans in attendance.
There had already been some talk about possible changes before Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz was found on Wednesday night to be infected with COVID-19. As soon as that news was out, all hell broke loose, and leagues started to crumble. When it was revealed that a second Jazz player was positive, things got even worse.
Donovan Mitchell has joined Gobert as the second Jazz member to have the coronavirus, and he issued a statement after the revelation was made, “We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the wellbeing of those around them. I appreciate the authorities in Oklahoma who were helpful with the testing process and everyone from the @utahjazz who have been so supportive. I am going to keep following the advice of our medical staff and hope that we can all come together and be there for each other and our neighbors who need our help.”
MLB called off the remainder of Spring Training as of Thursday afternoon. Opening Day was scheduled for March 26, but it will now be April 8 at the earliest, unless more delays are determined to be necessary. Spring training games are held in both Florida and Arizona, and the two states have already had several cases of coronavirus appear. Arizona has seen nine, while Florida has had 26. Two of those Florida patients died from the virus.
MLS has decided to suspend all activity for 30 days. The decision was made by all teams, and comes as the league was getting into its third week of action. Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement today that the league will continue to monitor the situation and make future adjustments as necessary, adding a vote of support to fans who show their “continued support during this challenging time.”
The NHL’s decision to suspend games was also made today based on guidance from public health authorities and concerns over the appearance of the coronavirus in the Jazz players. NHL and NBA, along with other sports organizations, share a lot of the same facilities, locker rooms and more, making future contamination easier to spread. The National Women’s Hockey League has also stepped up, agreeing to delay the Isobel Cup championship series that was to begin tomorrow between the Minnesota Whitecaps and the Boston Pride.
Not Just US Sports, Europe Too
Across the pond in Europe, the situation is being repeated. Spain’s La Liga, the Dutch Eredivisie, Portugal’s Primeira Liga have suspended games, and EUFA might postpone the Champions League and Euro 2020.
As for March Madness, many knew it was just a matter of time. Both Kansas and Duke had already pulled out of the tournament, and several conference tournaments leading up to the Big Dance – ACC, SEC, Big Ten, among others – were canceled. Holding out as long as it could, NCAA brass couldn’t justify allowing March Madness to continue.
The PGA and NASCAR are continuing their activity, only they’ve chosen to keep fans far away. All scheduled tournaments and runs, like the PGA’s THE PLAYERS Championship scheduled to start tomorrow, will continue, but everything will play out without the backdrop of a horde of cheering fans.
The impact the coronavirus is having is unprecedented. Across the world, entire countries, like Italy, are coming to a grinding halt. Because COVID-19 spreads so easily, extra caution is needed. Although it is a definite low point for fans, losing sports for just a few weeks is better than losing athletes or loved ones permanently.