Amid the recent COVID-19 related sports cancellations and postponements around the world, the Smoke Signal has gathered information on many of the major leagues and events affected and surveyed students for their input on the issue.
Across the globe, many marathons and running events have been canceled or postponed due to safety concerns. The most notable include the 2020 London Marathon and 2020 Boston Marathon, both of which attract 25,000 to 40,000 participants each year. Some races, such as the Asheville Marathon and Half in North Carolina, have gone virtual. Virtual races give participants the opportunity to run individually or with family, record their data online, and raise money for various charities through their registration fees.
The Major Soccer League (MLS) has decided to tentatively postpone all games and events until June 8. They had initially announced a 30-day closure on March 12, which they later extended after a player of the Philadelphia Union tested positive for COVID-19. According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the league is exploring the concept of “MLS studio” matches, in which games are played without spectators. Because of the billions of dollars already invested in MLS stadiums and teams, the league does plan on continuing its 2020 season and is looking into virtual alternatives.
Major League Baseball has been working throughout March and April to develop a plan for its 2020 season. New York Yankees Minor League Player Denny Larrondo was the first to test positive for the virus, causing spring training to be postponed and minor league players to be quarantined. Currently, the league tentatively plans to begin their season when the stay-at-home orders are lifted, with games only being played at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Players, coaches, and staff will be quarantined in hotels near the stadium and tested regularly for the virus over the course of several months as the season progresses. There will be no fans allowed in the stands, and players will have limited contact with their family members or friends until the season ends.
Following the news of NBA player Rudy Gobert contracting COVID-19, and considering the two leagues’ overlapping facilities, the National Hockey League (NHL) decided to put their season on pause until further information is available. The regular season was due to end on April 4, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning on April 6. The NHL is unsure of whether they will finish their regular-season games but are hoping to hold the Stanley Cup Playoffs during the summer if permitted by health authorities. During the shelter-in-place orders, former NHL player Wayne Gretzky and NHL player Alex Ovechkin have arranged a live-streamed virtual showdown through the NHL 20 video game to raise money for the coronavirus relief effort.
Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics
The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed to July of 2021, the first Olympics to have been rescheduled since 1944. The Games included 339 events in 33 sports, and were expected to bring in around 11,000 athletes and 600,000 spectators from around the world to Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has stated that all tickets previously purchased are valid for next year and is also offering full refunds for any volunteers or attendees. The United States had planned to send 620 participants to the Games, many of whom will still be competing in 2021.
Days after Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11, the NBA announced that they would suspend the 2019-2020 season. Initially, NBA commissioner Adam Silver had called for a 30-day hiatus, but the suspension is now indefinite. More than 10 players, including Brooklyn Nets Forward Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics Point Guard Marcus Smart, have tested positive for the virus thus far, and all have recovered within two weeks. On April 17, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association came to a consensus to withhold 25% of each player’s paycheck beginning May 15. Currently, the league is not in a position to make any other decisions, but Silver is weighing numerous options and remains committed to resuming the season. This may mean creating a shortened format, whether that is through play-in tournaments or 40 minute games.
On April 1, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) suspended all tours until July 13. The 2020 Wimbledon Championships, originally set for June 29, has been canceled for the first time since World War II in 1945. A decision about whether to cancel or to postpone New York City’s US Open, which is planned to begin on August 24, will be announced mid-June. However, United States Tennis Association (USTA) CEO Mike Dowse said the prospect of holding the tournament without spectators is unlikely. Among the other affected Grand Slams are the French Open, which has been postponed to September 20. Furthermore, USTA plans to cut its top executives’ salaries by 20 percent in order to provide $15 million in funding to American tennis facilities which have been forced to shut down due to the pandemic.
Since the NFL season ended one month before the spread of COVID-19 in the US, it is one of the least affected sports. The 2020 NFL Draft will take place during its original dates of April 23-25, which is notable considering that the pandemic has pushed back or shut down most other global sports events. One change to the draft, however, is that it will be held exclusively online and teams will be selecting players virtually, rather than in Las Vegas as previously planned. The 2020-21 NFL season is still set to begin on September 10. At the time of publication, the only NFL players to test positive for the virus are Los Angeles Rams Center Brian Allen and Denver Broncos Linebacker Von Miller.
In early March, the NCAA Board of Governors canceled all college winter and spring sports championships for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Among the most anticipated of these events was the Mens’ Division I basketball tournament, March Madness, which includes 68 college teams and attracts more than 100,000 fans to Atlanta yearly. To compensate for the athletes who would have lost their final season of eligibility, the Division 1 Council voted on March 30 to provide spring student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period eligibility. However, Ivy League schools did not approve of this exception for spring athletes.
Followed by the California Interscholastic Federation’s (CIF) decision to cancel all remaining high school Section, Regional, and State Championship events, FUSD confirmed the end of the 2020 spring sports seasons on April 9. Most FUSD teams had only played in a few regular season games before the announcement, and have not been able to train with their coaches and team since March 13 when schools first closed. The district has provided online resources including at-home workouts and yoga routines to help students stay physically and mentally fit during this time. The East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) also announced the cancellation of all spring competition on April 6, and almost all high school spring sports seasons across the country have been canceled. FUSD playgrounds, tracks, and fields remain inaccessible to the public until further notice.
How do you feel about the cancellations of MVAL practices and competitions? How does it impact you?
“I am saddened by cancellations of track meets. I started training for our season beginning in November. To only have gone to one invitational and one MVAL meet feels like I spent too much time on this season and the cancellations let it all go to waste.” – Emma Wang, 10
“Being a junior, this season is important for developing my skills and running faster times. Without this season, I have a shorter amount of time to show colleges what I can do.” – Liem Nguyen, 11
Do you think that for seasons like the NBA and NHL, it is reasonable to cancel the whole season if the pandemic persists for a few months? Why or why not?
“Of course. Putting players at risk of contracting the virus and further spreading it just to watch them play for entertainment seems outright ignorant.” – Ethan Suleman, 12
“Yes especially for the NBA because most or almost all the players touch the ball and if one person has the virus then there’s high chances that lots of other players will be affected too.” – Azra Tasneem, 10
Do you think taking these measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is important?
“Yes. Sports relies upon the gathering of people. At least from my experience in wrestling, a well-known tournament can easily have up to over 500 wrestlers (without even considering the coaches or visitors). Combined with the bodily contact between the athletes, tournaments can be breeding grounds for transmittable diseases such as COVID-19.” – Amy Zhu, 11
“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. In order to ensure that every American is as safe as they can be in this tough time, the government and the CDC must take these measures, and as citizens, it is our duty to adhere to these recommendations. I personally think that our country should have enforced a lockdown much earlier in the game to lower the risk of exposure. If COVID-19 spreads too much, then not only will we be unable to go back to our normal lives but also we will have to face other unforeseen situations, eg shortages, etc.” – Monica Manmadkar, 11