Status report: Sports leagues prepare to reopen


Muthu Panchanatham

An empty 49ers stadium on Feb. 1. At this time, the team was in Miami, finishing their last practice before the Super Bowl LIV game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Many professional sports leagues across the United States have suspended their seasons indefinitely in light of COVID-19’s continued spread, and in this dormant time for the world of sports, fans are growing more eager than ever to see their favorite leagues resume play.

“I can’t wait for [sports] to come back because the atmosphere and the vibe you feel walking into the stadium is just a great feeling, and it’s always a distraction from whatever else is going on in your life,” Nageena Singh (10), an avid Warriors fan, said. “You don’t have to think about anything else, you can just watch your favorite players play.”

Fans should remain optimistic, however, as some officials across the United States, including California Governor Gavin Newson, said that professional sports returning by the first week of June could be a real possibility. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed Newsom’s opinion, saying that there is a chance that sports will be able to resume this summer, but only if games are played without fans and the players involved are confined to certain locations and tested regularly.

To summarize the latest news in the professional sports world, here is a quick update regarding the status of five of the major sports leagues in the United States.

National Football League (NFL)

The NFL regular season is still on course to start on Sept. 10 as scheduled. Offseason programs for teams are currently happening in a fully virtual format, and as of Tuesday, teams will be able to reopen their facilities, as long as reopening doesn’t violate their state or region’s regulations. 

In terms of measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus among players and staff, the NFL has moved the five international games scheduled for next season, which were going to be played in London and Mexico City, back to the United States. In addition, the league is currently working with sports equipment company Oakley in developing protective face masks made out of N95 material for players to use when the season begins.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

The MLB has suspended its remaining Spring Training games and indefinitely delayed the start of the 2020 season, which was initially scheduled for March 26. A, and any games that will be played after the season resumes will occur in empty stadiums to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. 

The MLB gave players and team personnel a 67 page document last Friday on health and safety protocols that will be put in place should the season resume, which even includes details such as players not being able to stand shoulder to shoulder during the national anthem and the league discouraging post-game showers. The document also included diagrams regarding acceptable player and team personnel positioning before and during the games, which went as far as laying out how to do team stretches while maintaining physical distancing. 

In addition, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced last Thursday that the league has made a deal with the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, located in South Jordan, Utah, which will provide teams with the option to process thousands of tests each week when the season resumes.

National Hockey League (NHL)

The NHL regular season, which was originally scheduled to end on April 4, has been suspended indefinitely, along with the Stanley Cup playoffs and all international events, after an Ottawa Senators player, who has not been named, was the first NHL player to contract the coronavirus. 

The NHL 2020 draft was initially scheduled for June 26 and 27. The league has made the case to hold it before the season resumes as a way of engaging fans during the hiatus. In addition, they are reported to be currently working on a 24-game playoff format that will give teams who were on the bubble of entering the playoffs a fair chance of making their way in.

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA season was suspended indefinitely after news broke that Utah Jazz center and former defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert had contracted the coronavirus. The season was 65 games in at that point, and there have been some rumors and talk around the league about bringing all players, their families and team personnel to a location to play out the rest of the season. MGM resorts in Las Vegas recently proposed that the league could play out the rest of the season in a quarantined block on the Strip, but nothing has been confirmed yet. 

The NBA announced last Friday that the draft lottery and combine, which were set to begin on May 19 in Chicago, have been postponed to a later date. The draft itself, which was scheduled for June 25, is also up in the air as a result of this. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said, however, that the league is currently working with health experts in creating safety protocols to ensure safety for players when the season resumes.

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)

Like the MLB, the WNBA is indefinitely delaying the start of their 2020 season, which was initially scheduled for tip-off on May 15. Despite this, the WNBA draft still went on as planned on April 17, albeit in a virtual format, as per the plans laid out in a statement released by the league on April 3.