It’s now been 80 days in the U.S. since all the games stopped. Spring training in Major League Baseball, March Madness, NCAA Men’s & Women’s Basketball Tournaments, the NBA and WNBA, NHL, MLS, Professional Golf Men & Women, Pro Tennis, all on hold.
Sport’s is a multi-billion dollar industry, and sports with no fans in attendance? It’s never happened before. This is a road that professional sports leagues are having a difficult time coming to grips with.
Since March 1 when the NBA found out about positive coronavirus test results for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, all the sports world games stopped. The pandemic was finally taken seriously. States and cities started shutting down.
Social distancing orders mandated no groups of 10 or more and staying six feet from each other. We have been through a lot. It’s been a daily challenge of listening and watching the death toll rise to now 90,000.
Testing and more testing. Misinformation and speculation that no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 will come for at least 12-18 months. While the games have stopped, so has our daily ability to live normally.
No schools, malls, and businesses forced to close—When was the last time you went to a movie theatre or gone out to dine inside for dinner? Thirty percent of the United States is now unemployed. We are in a recession. Many of the jobs lost unfortunately will never return.
College sports can’t return until the university presidents first open schools again. University sports budgets are being slashed big time. Schools are dependent on the free labor of student-athletes in major revenue team sports football and basketball. Coaches are having their salaries cut.
The state of California is closed until August, but the state of Florida is open for business. Come and play, says Florida’s governor. But it’s not as simple as getting the players on baseball diamonds and into sports arenas and bringing TV cameras and allowing the networks to start broadcasting games. Somebody has to physically drive those TV trucks and lay thousands of feet of cable, and TV production crews work in tight, congested areas.
And what happens when somebody gets virus symptoms and tests positive, and people start getting sick with fever? The owners don’t want to go down that road of games with no fans. The players are in fear, and there’s a liability risk. What if players or coaches or equipment managers die?
You can’t play games with humans in a bubble. MLB players refuse to agree to a salary cap 50/50 split with the owners and play 82 games starting in July. You see, MLB with 30 teams and 25 players per team has no salary cap. The players’ union is the best in pro sports benefits, insurance, 401(k)s and pension plans. It’s been that way for decades.
The NBA and NFL both have salary caps, and 80 and 75% of the two leagues’ players respectively are Black. In MLB, only 8% of the leagues’ players are Black. Particularly when seven of 10 Black Americans are dying if they test positive with the coronavirus, that is an intriguing and interesting dynamic.
To start playing games again, games will have to be carefully executed. This will require great leadership, and the players will have to be all in and believe they face limited or no risk of losing their lives. They know this coronavirus and this once-every-100-years public health crisis is real.
Now I ask, is that realistic?