Major Sports Leagues Adjust to COVID-19


Lincoln Byrd

Affecting people all around the world, the novel coronavirus has drastically impacted major sports leagues in the United States and abroad. With all sports shutting down temporarily, only time will tell how they’ll bounce back.

Starting in the United States, every major sports league that was in the middle of a season postponed play in mid-March, taking many precautions in handling the virus. The NBA was the first to take action on March 12, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Following that, both MLB and NHL indefinitely suspended their seasons.

Over the past two months, the NBA has been “taking a break,” trying to see how things would play out, and there has been no set date for a return. More recently there have been talks by the league office as to postponing the upcoming season along with cancelling the remainder of the current season. Another possibility brought up by league commissioner Adam Silver was to cancel the remainder of the regular season and play playoff games to empty stadiums, although that seems less likely due to several players testing positive for the virus. As of May 3, there is still no decision for the NBA’s future.

MLB postponed the baseball season before it even started, so their 2020 season hasn’t officially started. While they hoped it would only be a short suspension of play, the league has started to issue refunds to fans, hinting that the possibility of a return in the near future is slim.

On the other hand, the NFL, being the only American major professional sports league not in session at the time, hasn’t officially postponed the 2020-21 season yet, still expecting to start early September as usual. However, league commissioner Roger Goodell said that the chance of playing games in empty stadiums is “most likely.”

After cancelling the draft event that was supposed to be held in Las Vegas, the NFL hosted a virtual draft for the college players going pro from April 23 to 25. The NFL also postponed offseason workouts for teams in late March, although those were lifted on April 29, so teams will begin training.

As for international sports leagues, many European soccer leagues have cancelled their current seasons completely with no chance of return. The only exception is the English Premier League, which held a shareholders meeting on May 1 where the clubs discussed possible steps to resume the season. While there has been no official statement on whether or not they’ll resume play, the league and clubs will return to training and playing with government guidance  and after consultation with players and managers.

In the college world, the NCAA has been taking even more precautions, having completely cancelled the Men’s Division I basketball tournament known as March Madness. There is also talk of completely cancelling the upcoming football season. In light of that, the NFL might try to schedule games on Saturdays, taking the place of NCAA football.

Through all this, there has been a lot of outrage from fans desperate for sports to resume play. Many signed online petitions for leagues to re-open and also took their frustrations to social media. Sports fans at Santa Fe High have also shared their thoughts on this issue.

Sophomore football and basketball fan Carlos Gonzales has found it frustrating to not have the normal kind of sports entertainment. “I think [coronavirus] has shown us how much we need sports,” he said. “There’s nothing as exciting as live sports, and this is showing how we take them for granted.”

On the other hand, junior soccer and basketball fan John Geisler hasn’t been too upset with the shutdown as he’s been watching re-runs of the older games ESPN has been airing. “I believe it’s necessary for [the leagues] to take maximum precautions before returning, so I think they’re doing the absolute best thing,” he said.

With all of this, just about every sports league has many options on how to tackle the issue of coronavirus. While the futures of these leagues remain uncertain, all have stressed that the safety of players and fans comes before everything else in these tough times.