coronavirus and sports
June 4, 2020

The NBA's board of governors voted Thursday to approve a 22-team, one-location playoff to finish its 2019-20 season, ESPN reports.

The top nine teams from the NBA's eastern conference and top 13 from the western conference, based on standings from when the season was suspended in March, will play an additional eight regular-season games to determine seeding and to tune up. They'll then move to a standard 16-team playoff bracket with a seven-game series determining each round's winner.

All the teams will live and play in a "bubble-like environment at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World," The Washington Post reports, with no fans allowed and visitors strictly limited. Games begin July 31 and the tournament is slated to end in October. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 15, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, isn't completely pessimistic about professional sports returning to action sometime this year, but they'll likely have to do it without spectators.

Fauci told Snapchat's Peter Hamby during an interview Tuesday that "there's a way" to get sports back up and running during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and his idea echoes a much-maligned plan from Major League Baseball. "Nobody comes to the stadium," he said, referring to fans. "Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled."

He said players would have to be tested for COVID-19 every week, as well.

The caveat of playing without fans is no surprise, and 72 percent of Americans said in a recent poll that they wouldn't plan on attending a live sporting event without a vaccine, anyway. But Fauci thinks there would still be plenty of interest in watching games or events on television.

One sport that may be on its way back soon is golf, which is more naturally suited for social distancing than other events. Per Golf Digest, the PGA Tour is expected to resume on June 11 for the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. No fans are expected to be able to attend the event. Read more at Golf Digest. Tim O'Donnell

April 12, 2020

Baseball fans, rejoice.

It will likely be a while before Major League Baseball returns, if it does at all this year, even with some far-fetched plans being discussed. But Taiwan, which has been praised for its ability to stem the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, was able to get the Chinese Professional Baseball League season started Sunday after rain postponed Saturday's expected opener. No fans were in the stands for Sunday's clash between the Chinatrust Brothers and the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions in Taichung, but the empty stadium didn't diminish the significance of the moment for some fans.

The Korean Baseball Organization looks like it has the best shot at being the next league to return to the diamond, possibly in early May. The diminishing number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea even have some folks believing the KBO can pull off a full season. Tim O'Donnell

April 1, 2020

Experts are now convinced a February Champions League soccer game between the Italian club Atalanta and the Spanish club Valencia was at the forefront of an explosion of COVID-19 cases in Italy's Lombardy region, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, The Wall Street Journal reports.

More than 40,000 people crammed into San Siro stadium in Milan to watch the contest, a 4-1 victory for Atalanta. Then, two weeks later Bergamo, where Atalanta is based, experienced a major spike in cases, with scientists pinpointing the match as a crucial petri dish. "Two weeks after Feb. 19, there was an incredible explosion of cases," said Dr. Francesco Le Foche, an immunologist in charge of infectious diseases at Policlinico Umberto I in Rome. "The match played a huge role in disseminating coronavirus throughout Lombardy and in Bergamo in particular."

To put it in perspective, 35 percent of Valencia's traveling squad tested positive for the virus after the team returned to Spain. Only one Atalanta player tested positive, but the club has published death notices on its website for five people linked to the virus who were close to the club within the last two weeks, all of whom were present for Atalanta's victory over Valencia.

The match shows the type of role sporting events can play in furthering the spread of the virus, further explaining why nearly every professional league has shut down operations, and casting doubt on whether some sports will come back at all this year. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

March 31, 2020

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday it will continue to pay — and provide health benefits for — minor leaguers until May 31st or Opening Day, whichever comes first. Previously, the league was committed to compensation through April 8, but owners and MLB officials have reportedly been working on a plan to extend the time period for a while.

Professional baseball in the United States is, like all major professional sports, on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and it's unclear when it might start back up again. The sport's suspension is particularly worrisome for minor league ballplayers, who make a fraction of what their major league counterparts earn. For now, at least, they'll continue to receive $400 dollars per week and their normal medical benefits from MLB, although the league is suspending their contracts "as a procedural matter."

The new weekly salary will amount to a pay cut for some minor league veterans, but it's actually a raise for many, especially those who are playing at the lower levels. Per ESPN, weekly salaries over the course of a full minor league season range from $290 for Class A to $502 at Triple-A. Tim O'Donnell

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