Coronavirus Halts Sporting Events Across United States

Mar 12, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will be cancelling the remainder of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament, effective immediately in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, the NBA announced the indefinite suspension of the basketball season following Rudy Gobert testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. This sent the sports and social media communities into a frenzy as many wondered if the other sporting leagues would follow suit.  

The NCAA had already announced the National Championship Tournament and the Conference Championship tournaments would be played without the presence of spectators. 

The Golden State Warriors were originally slated to play in an empty Chase Center before the suspension caused the cancellation of the game, and Seattle imposed a ban on any gathering larger than 250 people which ultimately meant the Seattle sports teams couldn’t play for an audience, either.

On Thursday morning, the first announcements were released regarding changes due to the coronavirus outbreak and the various sporting leagues continued to send out press releases announcing changes all afternoon.

Nearly every sporting organization has followed suit by modifying schedules, canceling events, or suspending the current seasons.

Major League Soccer was one of the first leagues to announce a change to their schedule today when they announced their season would be suspended for 30 days.

The National Hockey League released its statement shortly after the MLS, announcing they would pause the current season effective starting with tonight’s scheduled games.

Soon, the collegiate conferences starting issuing press releases regarding their response to coronavirus situations. The ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big East, and the PAC10 released announcements the conference tournaments, some with games in play at the time, were canceled.  

It wasn’t long after those announcements that the athletic departments at Duke and Kansas University suspended all spring athletics, consequently withdrawing the former from the Division I National Championship Tournament.

The NCAA announced a few hours later that all winter and spring championship tournaments were canceled, including March Madness. The NCAA cited the evolving public health threat associated with the COVID-19 virus and their responsibility in ensuring the events do not assist the spread of the virus.

The Major League Baseball organization was one of the last to release an announcement in regards to any adjustments in Spring Training or Opening Day of the 2020 season. 

Finally, an announcement came around 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday afternoon:

NASCAR is also taking precautions due to the coronavirus threat and announced spectators will not be permitted to attend the next two races.

In addition, the NFL announced the annual meeting scheduled for March 29 through April 1 has been canceled in response to the pandemic. Currently, there isn’t any information on changes to the NFL Draft, which takes place in Las Vegas form April 23 through 25.

Several Boston news outlets are reporting the annual Boston Marathon will be postponed until September, but the Boston Athletic Association has not made any official announcement about the postponement. Such confirmation is expected within 48 hours.

Finally, the XFL announced it was canceling the remainder of its inaugural season. The league completed five weeks of the season while deciding to forego an additional five weeks, plus the playoffs. The league confirmed players would be paid their full base pay and benefits while ticket holders would be issued refunds or credits. The XFL vowed to return for 2021 and beyond despite their inaugural season ending in a disappointing fashion.

The UFC seems to be one of the only organizations that has yet to cancel its events. President Dana White has acknowledged the possibility but probably will not cancel unless his hand is forced. 

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the nation and local governments are forced to enforce social distancing regulations, there are sure to be more closures and cancellations across the spectrum, as well as overall interruption to Americans’ daily lives.

It is important to remember that while the disappointments of the cancellations are large and widespread, there are people whose livelihood is being affected by these decisions.  

Thousands of people are employed nationwide in the various stadiums and arenas and without events taking place, they don’t have any work. The local economies that are dependent on revenue from the sports teams and venue events will also take a hit, in particular, the service industries and small businesses.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is a positive example of one executive deciding to compensate his employees despite the suspension of the NBA season.

As the nation grasps the reality of a COVID-19 outbreak and precautionary measures are taken, it is important for us to remain vigilant and follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, life will return to normal and we will be able to return to work, school, and enjoy the sporting events that unite us as fans.

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