COVID-19 and Sports (April 2020)

Coronavirus continues to ravage the entire world. The sports world is not immune to this new reality. Many sports have been cancelled or delayed so that people can promote social distancing. 

Starting first with the NBA, they had to cancel events after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. He was very irresponsible before he tested positive. He touched many microphones that journalists were using and, according to ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, he was feeling a lot of stuff inside the locker rooms as well. After his positive diagnosis, it caused the NBA to go into total damage control and games had to be postponed. The NBA figured out that every player in the league has some kind of direct or indirect connection with Rudy Gobert over the previous five games before his positive diagnosis. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was forced to put the season on hiatus for, at least, 30 days. 

The NHL quickly followed suit as the NBA and NHL shared many facilities so it was a no brainer that they would have to pause their season as well. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman still holds out hope that they can restart the NHL season, in some capacity, in May. In the days since the cancellation of the season, multiple Ottawa Senators players tested positive for COVID-19. The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) also decided to suspend the 2020 IIHF World Championship. Many owners and players have agreed to chip in money to help arena staff who make their income off of arena events. 

The MLS also decided to halt play until it is clear to play again without any fear of transmitting COVID-19 amongst the players. They are doing this in accordance with the CDC and have a target return date of May 10.  

MLB decided to stop spring training and pushed back the start of the season for two weeks. 

The NFL decided to continue on with the start of its season. However, the beginning of the new “season” means that teams can sign free agents or make trades. Nothing that involves much personal interaction between employees of the NFL. Most of the action took place on Twitter where NFL insiders broke the latest signings and trades. They plan to go ahead with the start of their actual season which will not be until August.  

For the Olympics, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee decided to pull out of Tokyo 2020. A couple of days later, the IOC decided to postpone the 2020 Olympics. This is the first-ever postponement of the Olympics. The games have been cancelled before during both the first and second world wars but never postponed. The IOC has said that they will hold the Olympics on July 23, 2021. The target is moving based on movement from different health authorities.  

I believe that each sport needs to take different measures. Everything depends on when the governments decide that it is clear for people to hang out. I also think that there will have to be a reduced schedule for most, if not all, the sports. 

For the NHL, they should take the teams that are currently in the playoffs and have reduced playoffs. For the first round, it should be five games and then seven games after that. Then have a quick turnaround to the draft and free agency. That way they can get to the offseason and then the next season will not be affected. Also, there is a lot of money that comes with missing these games, so if there is any chance they can return, they have to be ready for any possibilities. 

For the NBA, they should start with the playoffs and go through the same format as usual. They should then go to the offseason and take the ordinary time off. The NBA has been interested in having a reduced regular season from 82 games to somewhere in the ’70s. This disruption gives the NBA an excellent chance to test out a shorter schedule and try and see how it would work and how it would affect fan reaction and player reaction. 

Overall, the COVID-19 virus has sent the entire sports landscape into a whirlwind of uncertainty, many leagues and associations taking a wait and see approach. The situation is out of their hands, and it will be up to national and international health organizations to make determinations about when things can return to a sense of normalcy.