Most U.S. Sports Leagues Suspend Play Due to COVID-19

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The U.S. coronavirus outbreak has led to an almost complete shutdown of professional sports in the country. On Wednesday, the NBA suspended its season after a top player tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, the NHL, MLB, MLS, U.S. Soccer, and multiple tennis associations followed suit.

Below is what we know about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on American sports leagues and athletes.

NCAA cancels championships, including March Madness

On Thursday, the NCAA canceled all of its remaining spring and winter championships, including the March Madness basketball tournaments for both men and women. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA explained.

As ESPN notes, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has never been canceled before, and the annual three-week event usually generates nearly a billion dollars in revenue for the NCAA and participating universities. Not this year.

The NCAA had previously announced that the tournament would proceed without fans in attendance. That calculus quickly changed.

MLB spring training suspended, regular season delayed; World Baseball Classic postponed indefinitely

Major League Baseball cancelled its remaining spring training games on Thursday and announced that the start of the regular season would be delayed at least two weeks. The MLB said the moves were “in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans.”

As for how the 2020 schedule may play out as a result — that is far from clear. The league said Thursday that it and individual teams would be preparing contingency plans to address disruption. Minor League Baseball has also postponed the start of its season.

The World Baseball Classic, which was due to start in April, has also been postponed indefinitely.

NHL “pauses” season

The National Hockey League announced on Thursday that it was suspending the 2019-2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak. “Following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus — and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point — it is no longer appropriate to continue to play games at this time” the league said in a statement. The NHL has also told all players and team staff members to return home and self-quarantine as a precaution.

It is not clear when the season may resume.

Tennis tournaments canceled

The Association of Tennis Professionals announced on Thursday that it was suspending its tour for at least six weeks due to the coronavirus — hours after Miami officials cancelled the Miami Open. The Women’s Tennis Association also cancelled next month’s Volvo Car Open.

Abroad, the ATP announcement means the cancellation of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 and the Barcelona tournament. The International Tennis Federation said Thursday that it was suspending play through at least April 20.

MLS, U.S. Soccer games also canceled

Major League Soccer announced Thursday that it was suspending its 2020 season for 30 days in order to assess the impact of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. U.S. Soccer also announced that the men’s and women’s national team games have been cancelled through at least the end of April.

The Olympics are still on, for now

The summer Olympics in Tokyo have not been canceled yet, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe with no end in sight, calling off the Games may be inevitable. The International Olympic Committee could make a final decision about whether or not to hold the Games, which begin in early August, sometime in May or June.

On Thursday morning, the Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece was closed to the public.

NBA season suspended indefinitely; two Jazz players confirmed to have the coronavirus

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely on Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rody Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The confirmed case will also reportedly land the players from seven teams in self-quarantine. On Thursday, the Jazz announced that Donovan Mitchell had also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Jazz were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight in Oklahoma, and seconds before the game was set to begin, the head of the Thunder’s medical staff ran onto the court to tell the referees about the confirmed case.
The teams soon returned to their locker rooms, and the game was later postponed. Gobert was not in the stadium at the time, the league later said.

The NBA soon announced that it was suspending the season — while two games were still being played. Players from both the Jazz and Oklahoma Thunder were quarantined at the arena, and it’s not clear when Jazz players will be able to return to Salt Lake City.

According to ESPN, players from all the teams the Jazz has played in the past ten days — the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors — have been told to self-quarantine.

Two days before testing positive, Gobert made light of the public-health crisis:

On Thursday, he issued a public apology:

The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.

In a statement on Wednesday night, the Jazz said that Gobert was tested for the coronavirus after he tested negative for the flu and other possible ailments.

This is a developing story and this post will be updated.

Most U.S. Sports Suspend or Cancel Play Over COVID-19 Fears