Combating the pandemic, sports leads the way with drastic measures

Pay close attention to what you don’t understand, because ignorance and failure to follow suggested challenges during a public health crisis may save lives. Eliminate your habits—we are in for the challenge of our lives. We are in the early stages of a pandemic.

At the time this column was published, in the U.S., 38,792 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 401 have died. Globally, an amazing
342,907 people have tested positive and 14,686 have died.

COVID-19 is spreading fast like a wildfire, only it’s invisible. The U.S. currently is far behind on testing, but this week over million tests will be available. We are in a national emergency, and everyone is faced with challenges.

Sports are viewed by some as simply an escape from our daily pressures. I’ve heard many times over the years from those who like to let you know that sports is not that important and it’s not a priority for them.

I have a different view and always have. Sport touches the very core of our society. Last week we saw that: Faced with unexpected health challenges, the sports industry during this unprecedented pandemic led the way.

When NBA star Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA immediately canceled the season. Within 24 hours his teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive. The NCAA had planned to hold March Madness, the popular men’s and women’s 68-team basketball tournaments that would lead to the Final Four in Atlanta, in empty arenas across the country.

 That way TV-CBS-TNT-TBS and other sponsors and business partners would still televise the games and, more importantly, only put the athletes, coaches, and support staffs at risk. The NCAA could still make $900 million from TV revenues. (Remember, NCAA student-athletes don’t get paid.) Gobert’s COVID-19 positive test killed their plan.

These cancellations of March Madness have shut the sports gambling industry down. By a vote of 6-3 two years ago, the Supreme Court legalized sports gambling in all 50 states. In 2019, $8.5 billion was wagered on the NCAA March Madness alone.

As frightening as this crisis is, it reminds us how some organizations like the NCAA prioritize. The NHL, MLB, MLS, PGA—all these sports organizations decided to stop playing games because of fears of COVID-19 spreading. The PGA Tour canceled the Players Championship after round one and, now, the Masters.

The leading health professionals have strongly recommended no crowds. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said Sunday no to crowds of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.

Before the NBA season started, China froze TV business relations to billions of viewers because the Houston Rockets GM on Twitter criticized China’s human rights policy in Hong Kong to protesters, to date causing the league to lose $500 million.

That’s 21% of the league’s revenues annually since 1994. During these challenging times, compare the NBA decision with the original plan of the NCAA. It makes you think.

We are in a crisis of leadership with drastic measures of separation and cancellations and suspensions of games.