Coronavirus is beginning to turn the sports world upside down, and any leagues thinking they’ll be able to keep fans involved should start prepping Plan B.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who’s a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday in testimony before the House Oversight Committee that NBA games should be played without fans. Though he mentioned the NBA specifically because he was asked about coronavirus reactions by the NBA and the Ivy League — which canceled its postseason basketball tournaments — Fauci’s advice against large crowds applies to every major sports league.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”
The recommendation by Fauci, as one of the country’s top public health officials, is perhaps the most significant thus far with regard to sports leagues making alternative plans based on coronavirus. The NBA was hoping to avoid shutting fans out with the possibility of relocating games. Ditto for MLB.
First NBA empty-arena game
The NBA was hoping to avoid playing games without fans, but it was left with no choice Wednesday when San Francisco banned events of more than 1,000 people. Thus, Thursday’s Nets-Warriors game at Chase Center will become the first professional sporting event in the US played without fans in attendance as a result of coronavirus.
League owners were scheduled for a call Wednesday to discuss coronavirus contingencies. The NBA reportedly preferred to relocate games before potentially shutting fans out.
Seattle teams forced to make new plans
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people through the end of March. The Seattle Mariners announced they’re working with MLB on alternative plans as they were set to open their season March 26 with a seven-game homestand.
“While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration,” the Mariners said in a statement.
The Seattle Sounders MLS team announced its March 21 home game has been postponed. The XFL announced the Seattle Dragons’ home game on Sunday will be played without fans in attendance.
College football players quarantined
Two football players at the University of Tulsa have been quarantined as a result of potential exposure to coronavirus, according to the Tulsa World. A woman in her 20s who’s a relative of one of the players recently returned from Italy, a coronavirus hot zone. The player reportedly did not make direct contact with the woman, but may have been near other relatives who were around the woman. That player’s roommate is the other quarantined player.
More Ivy League cancellations
After the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments, the league announced it is canceling all spring athletics competition and practices. The Athletic reports the league “will likely request a blanket waiver/extra year” for the affected athletes. Harvard also announced its hockey team’s ECAC playoff series against RPI this weekend has been canceled. That ends the team’s season.
Ohio Gov. takes a stand
After recommending Tuesday that indoor sporting events go on without fans, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday he was turning that into an official order. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who said Tuesday they would hold games with fans as scheduled, said they would abide by DeWine’s order.
Men’s tennis taking hiatus
The ATP, the primary governing body for men’s tennis, is in “advanced discussions” about halting tour events for the next six weeks, the New York Times reports.