Fears over the coronavirus are affecting the world of sports. The basketball game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder set for March 11 in Oklahoma City was postponed just minutes before the opening tip-off when officials learned a player for the Jazz had tested positive for the coronavirus. The National Basketball Association then took the extraordinary measure of suspending the remainder of the 2019-20 season until further notice.
The NBA decided that all games that were already underway at the time when the suspension was declared would be allowed to continue.
There have been other actions taken regarding sports and preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The day after the NBA announced the suspension of their season, the National Hockey League announced they were suspending their season as well.
“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 season beginning with tonight’s games,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday afternoon.
Major League Baseball has also suspended operations due to the coronavirus. All Cactus and Grapefruit games in Arizona and Florida have been suspended as of Thursday, March 12. Opening Day has been postponed from March 26 to no earlier than April 9.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association had previously said their men’s and women’s tournaments will be played with no spectators in the arenas. As of March 12, the NCAA announced their 2020 basketball tournaments have been canceled. In other words, there will be no “March Madness” this year.
“This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”
The Seattle Mariners baseball team has said they won’t open their 2020 season at home as scheduled after Washington Gov. Jay Imslee banned public gatherings of over 250 people. The Seattle area has been hit hard by the virus, with more than 20 of the 31 deaths in the United States having occurred there.
In San Francisco, gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned, which means the San Francisco Giants may not be able to play home games there. The Golden State Warriors basketball team was already looking for other locations, but the NBA’s decision to suspend the 2019-20 season may have made that a moot point.
Grand Prix races in Shanghai, Rome and Jakarta, Indonesia, have been postponed. Some European soccer leagues are playing their games with no audiences in the arenas. There are concerns over how the coronavirus will affect the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer have all banned “non-essential” people from team locker rooms, including the media.
In Arizona, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and Arizona Coyotes have all implemented the ban on non-essential people in locker rooms and clubhouses.
“This is a very real thing that’s circulating the globe, and we have to be mindful of it and we have to be careful,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “And we have responsibilities just like everybody else to be aware of the risks and the potential for the spread. And I’m not just worried for us, I’m worried for the fans, too.”
How have high school sports in Arizona been affected? Arizona Interscholastic Association spokesperson Seth Polansky told the Pioneer in an e-mail March 11 that there are no cancellations or restrictions of spectators planned.
“The regular season belongs to the member schools so they are currently handling their own situations,” Polansky said. “There are protocols in place if any games need to be suspended, rescheduled or cancelled. Again, the schools are in charge of these changes and they will contact the AIA if this happens. If anything affects the postseason the AIA can handle. But with the first postseason contest weeks away there is time to formulate any contingency plans. In the meantime the AIA is telling everyone to heed the advice of the medical professionals across the state and country to help in not spreading the virus.”
Polansky said the AIA is monitoring information coming from the Governor’s Office as well as from the National Federation of State High School Associations. He said the AIA board would be discussing the matter at their regular meeting March 16.
Parker High School Athletic Director Dan Maya said they would follow whatever advice or direction they get from the AIA. They would also follow any directions from the school district administration.
Maya noted the coronavirus is particularly dangerous to the elderly, those with conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and those with weakened immune systems. He said actions regarding the virus are intended to protect the most vulnerable.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to do anything drastic,” Maya said.