As COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the nation, many professional and collegiate sports have been canceled or suspended. While these actions will not be feasible as long term solutions, cancelling seasons provide safety and relief for players and fans alike.
The initial proposals in response to the coronavirus scare were highly problematic. Various collegiate conferences initially decided to cancel conference tournaments altogether. This meant that the regular-season title champs would have automatically advanced to the NCAA tournament. This would have eliminated other teams’ chances to compete for a tournament spot and unfairly ended their seasons. Then, before suspending its season, the NBA had plans to play without fans in attendance. The NCAA also planned to play the entire March Madness tournament without fans in attendance, when last year’s total attendance for the championship tournament was nearly 700,000.
These plans were opposed by various athletes, including Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James. Playing professional sports without fans would be like playing without a ball. Leagues would have suffered from continuing to play without fans in attendance. Viewer ratings, as well as ticket refunds, would have caused further complications.
Player and team staff safety were also unresolved. On Mar. 11, the Utah Jazz were scheduled to play against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Minutes before tipoff, a Thunder team doctor talked to officials about Jazz players’ illnesses. The players were sent back into the locker rooms and the game was canceled. As thousands of fans exited the arena, a report confirmed that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. While he was not present with the team, other players in the arena were tested, which also revealed Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had the virus.
This incident showed the reality of the issue. If leagues continued to play, athletes most likely would have spread the virus among each other and staff.
Shortly after the Jazz incident, the NBA suspended its season. The announcement caused other leagues to follow. Within a day, the MLS, NHL, MLB and other professional sports organizations suspended and canceled their games.
While the sports industry will still suffer from suspending and canceling its seasons, it is the appropriate decision to make. As much is still unknown about the virus, this is the safest way to prevent its growth and control the fear around the issue. Both athletes and fans are protected from these decisions.
Although many financial questions remain, Mark Cuban and other team owners have offered aid to their teams’ arena employees. Players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson and Blake Griffin pledged money to assist paying their teams’ arena employees that are affected by the hiatus. These actions have set an example of the support needed to alleviate the struggles caused by this decision.
While fans and athletes will have to endure not being able to play and watch the sports they love, the decision to temporarily cancel play is necessary to prevent and prepare for the spread of COVID-19.