By Jake Moore, former Asst. Sports Editor-
While sports league executives were meeting worldwide about how to deal with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the Utah Jazz’s all-star center, Rudy Gobert, received his diagnosis.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans refuse to leave their locker room as the news begins to leak out. In Oklahoma City, panicked fans receive the unexpected news that the Thunder’s game has been canceled but the PA announcer assures the crowd’s safety. Less than 24 hours later it was official-the NBA season has been postponed due to the threat of coronavirus.
Soon after, the other major American sports leagues followed. The XFL suspends all games in its freshman season, the NHL suspends the season just games before the playoffs and MLB, a staple of springtime in America, postpones its opening day.
Another unprecedented cancelation was that of the NCAA Tournament (commonly known as March Madness).
“I woke up the other morning thinking I’d dreamed it all,” UTC Professor and author of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, Chris Dortch said. “When I realized I hadn’t, I was crushed.”
All of these are some of the most drastic and notable attempts to contain the spread of coronavirus, which was recently declared a “global pandemic” by the World Health Organization. These cancellations are not limited to the United States, worldwide sports are being played in empty arenas or have been canceled entirely. Most notably, the five major football leagues across Europe have been shut down until further notice.
With the sports media cycle being disrupted at a time where it is usually at its most tumultuous, many sports analysts and personalities have shifted their focus to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which for the moment is still on course.
While many of the athletes’ contracts are still being honored, the other team employees’ (such as concession workers and custodians) pay is in question. Several athletes such as league NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and superstar Zion Williamson have pledged upwards of $100,000 to support these workers. Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has also pledged to support this cause.
“Given the character of [Zion], that sort of generosity doesn’t surprise me,” Dortch said. “I think others will step up.”
Since the cancellation of sports seasons and games, the dialogue and actions around coronavirus have heightened but perhaps these actions are too little too late as several epidemiologists have claimed that time for containment has passed.
“We shouldn’t need a crisis like Coronavirus to spur action like that,” Dortch said. “We should always be prepared for anything.”