A world without sports: How coronavirus has impacted athletics globally

Jude Papillion, Staff Reporter

Hanson Dai
Hanson Dai | Art Director

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, sporting events around the world have either been canceled, suspended or postponed.

This includes postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan a move announced by International Olympic Committee Chairman Dick Pound. The games were set to take place between July 24 and Aug. 9. They have now been postponed almost exactly a year with a new opening ceremony date of July 23, 2021. The date was chosen on three main considerations by the International Olympic Committee: to protect the health of athletes, to safeguard the interests of the athletes and Olympic sport, and the international sports calendar. 

According to the IOC, the “new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the games maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

There were several options discussed when deciding to postpone the games. One idea was postponing the games to the spring, allowing the Olympics to occur at the same time as the blossoming of Japan’s famous cherry blossoms. This move, though, would have disrupted sports leagues in Europe and North America. 

The Olympics are not alone in terms of sporting events affected by COVID-19. Many other sporting events around the world have either been cancelled or postponed until the pandemic ceases. In Italy, a nation ravaged by the coronavirus, the Italian Government issued a decree declaring that all sporting events in the country must take place without fans until at least April 3. This will affect several sports, including Italy’s Serie A soccer league, along with rugby and tennis. 

In addition to Serie A, La Liga, the Champions League and Europa League have been suspended indefinitely. All four of these leagues are at risk of having their seasons canceled. The Premier League has also suspended its current season until at least April 30, however the league has stated that it will not begin its 2020-21 season until this one ends. In North America, Mexico’s Liga MX has suspended its season until further notice, and America’s Major League Soccer has extended the suspension of its season until at least May 10. Furthermore, Euro 2020 and Copa America have been postponed until 2021. 

On Thursday March 12, the NBA, NCAA, MLB, and NHL all decided to either end or suspend their seasons. 

After Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver immediately made the decision to suspend the NBA’s season indefinitely. While Silver initially stated that the season would likely be suspended for at least 30 days, many around the league are hoping for the season to resume in mid-to-late June at the earliest. The NBA is currently evaluating three options in regard to resuming its season: playing games with fans whenever it is safe to do so, continuing games without fans, or having players compete in a charity tournament or game for the “good of the people.”

The NBA still faces looming questions like whether there will be a permanent shift in the NBA calendar, whether the NBA will skip the remaining regular season games and immediately begin the playoffs and whether the season will even continue at all. Since Gobert tested positive, a number of NBA figures have also tested positive including Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant and three of his Brooklyn Nets teammates and New York Knicks owner James Dolan. 

The NCAA made the decision to cancel all of its remaining winter and spring NCAA championships for the 2019-20 season on March 12. This includes the cancellation of March Madness, the men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, and baseball’s College World Series. This decision will have a huge impact on both the NCAA and all of its member schools. While the Tournament has a $250-275 million business-interruption insurance contract, the NCAA was scheduled to collect $827 million from its contract with CBS and Turner. In 2019, the NCAA received $170 million in non-CBS/Turner revenue from championships and NIT tournaments, but most of this revenue also came from March Madness. Prior to the tournament’s cancellation, the NCAA planned to distribute around $600 million among its Division I member schools, but this amount has been slashed by more than half to $225 million. Due to the lost season, the NCAA approved an extra year of eligibility for spring athletes, but not winter athletes. 

Major League Baseball also decided to postpone its regular season until a later date on March 12 due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that all events in the U.S. with more than 50 people present should be canceled for the next eight weeks. Opening Day, which was originally scheduled for March 26, will now be pushed to mid-May at the earliest, and teams and players believe that around two to four weeks of additional spring training will be needed prior to the commencement of the season. Many are questioning whether or not all 162 regular season games will be played, as well as the fate of the MLB All-Star Game, which is set to be held on July 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. 

Following the actions of other American sports leagues, the NHL decided to suspend its season indefinitely.

“In all likelihood, we weren’t going to get through the rest of the season without a player testing positive. Particularly because the Utah Jazz had used locker rooms within 24 hours of our teams using the same locker rooms in buildings that we share with the NBA. I just decided that instead of waiting for it to happen, to just get ahead of it,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in an ESPN article.

Following first round play of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the PGA Tour decided to cancel all of its events through mid-May. While not a PGA Tour event, Augusta National Golf Club decided to postpone its 2020 Masters Tournament, originally slated to be held from April 9-12. It is rumored that the tournament will instead take place in October. The PGA Championship, originally scheduled to take place in early May at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, has been postponed to a later date in the summer. Although not officially postponed yet, the New York Post reported that the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club will be postponed until September instead of its original June date. If true, all four of gold’s majors will have been postponed or canceled, with the Open Championship, scheduled to be played at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, rumored to have been canceled Wednesday.

Tennis has also been affected, with the Wimbledon Championships scheduled for June 29 to July 12 having been canceled Wednesday as well.

While COVID-19 has not had a profound impact on football, some such as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit are questioning how the virus will impact the upcoming college and professional football season.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said on ESPN radio. “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.” 

So far, the NFL has only modified two events: the league canceled its 2020 Annual League Meeting in which all 32 owners meet to discuss rule changes and other football matters. The NFL has also canceled all public events for the 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas. The draft will still take place from April 23 to 25 and will be “televised in a way that reflects current conditions.” In the meantime, NFL free-agency is still on-going. 

This is an an unprecedented time in sports. While fans cannot enjoy the teams they love right now, commissioners and sporting authorities have made choice in an effort to prioritize the safety of fans and players.