The big American professional sports leagues stop seasons

All of the major U.S. professional sports leagues halted games and then suspended their seasons on Thursday after the nightmare scenario – a top athlete testing positive for coronavirus – came to fruition on Wednesday night. Utah Jazz All-Star Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, the game he was scheduled to play was postponed and within hours the National Basketball Association announced it was suspending his season.

After the game was postponed, members of the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as some members of the media, were waiting to be tested for the coronavirus and the Jazz were quarantined in Oklahoma City. On Thursday morning it was announced that Jazz goalkeeper Donovan Mitchell had also tested positive.

Players from teams that have played against the Jazz in recent days, including the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, have been asked to self-quarantine. In addition, it will be necessary to test and potentially quarantine the teams recently played by the opponents of the Jazz, as well as the dozen referees who had worked the matches of the Jazz during the last two weeks, as well as the other teams of which they had refereed. the games. .

On Thursday, the day after the NBA closed, all other major American leagues and sports organizations belatedly announced their response to the pandemic:

• Major League Baseball (MLB) will suspend spring training games and delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.

• The National Hockey League (NHL) will “pause” its season.

• The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) will be hosting its next two races in the absence of fans.

• Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tours will continue to be played, but without the presence of fans.

• In college basketball, the Big 10, ACC, SEC, Big 12, American Athletic Conference, Pac-12 and Atlantic 10 have all canceled their men’s conference basketball tournaments.

• The NCAA announced Wednesday that the national men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without fans. On Thursday, both tournaments were canceled.

• The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour suspended tournaments for six weeks.

• Major League Soccer (MLS) has suspended all matches.

America’s professional sports leagues had been a glaring exception in a world where most countries had canceled professional sports events since early March or were hosting matches without fans.

Across China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, all of these events have been canceled or postponed. In Europe, Italy had banned all sporting events, and most other European countries had either canceled or postponed their events or demanded that they take place without the presence of fans.

Professional sport in the United States is a multi-billion dollar business whose revenues are generated through broadcast rights, attendance and merchandising. Billionaire owners and the media conglomerates that broadcast these games have felt that their financial health is paramount to the health of gamers, fans and the general public, insisting that its business continue as usual.

In Seattle on March 7, in the area that was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the Seattle Sounders, a professional soccer team, performed in front of 33,000 fans at Seattle CenturyLink Field. On Thursday, March 5, two days before the game, Seattle health officials reported that there had been a total of 51 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths in the region. Additionally, a part-time employee, who had worked as a dealership salesperson at the same stadium during the Seattle Dragons professional football team’s home game against the Dallas Renegades on February 22, had tested positive for the coronavirus. .

A National Hockey League (NHL) hockey game also took place last Thursday in San Jose, Calif. Under similar circumstances. Just hours after Santa Clara County public health officials recommended that large gatherings like sporting events be canceled in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak which then included six new cases, bringing the total At 20 in the area, the San Jose Sharks played their game against the Minnesota Wild with 14,500 fans in attendance, 2,000 below the season average.

In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, playing at the Chase Center in San Francisco, said in a statement last Friday that their Saturday game, broadcast nationally on ABC, “will continue as scheduled.” But the team have advised fans who feel uncomfortable not to attend.

“Any guest who is feeling sick, regardless of their symptoms, should not attend public events. In addition, the Warriors also encourage vulnerable populations, including those with underlying health conditions, not to attend tomorrow night’s Warriors game at the Chase Center, ”the statement said. A crowd of over 18,000 fans attended the game.

On Sunday, the NBA played 10 games attended by around 180,000 fans, all in indoor arenas.

In college basketball, the primary concern was the upcoming NCAA tournament commonly referred to as “March Madness,” which was scheduled to begin on March 17th.

The first cancellation of a major American sporting event was announced on Sunday: the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament which was due to start the next day in Indian Wells, California. He was called after a case of the coronavirus was confirmed in nearby Coachella Valley in southern California.

One of the major tournaments in tennis, the BNP Paribas Open generally attracts more than 450,000 spectators. This year’s field was set to attract tennis’s most prominent players, including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, with a cash prize of $ 17 million.

The Riverside County Public Health Department declared a public health emergency on Sunday for desert towns 110 miles east of Los Angeles, including Indian Wells. “There is too great a risk, right now, to the public health of the Riverside County area by hosting a large gathering of this size,” said Dr David Agus, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the ‘University of Southern California. in a report.

On Monday, acknowledging that the scale of the severity of the health crisis could no longer be concealed, the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer announced in a joint statement that they were closing access to the locker rooms and lodges to all non-essential personnel. , including the media, in response to the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, players were instructed not to shake hands, sign autographs and avoid other forms of physical contact with fans.

This palliative however collapsed after the revelation that Rudy Gobert had become the first professional athlete in the United States known to have contracted the coronavirus.

Sara R. Cicero