How US Sports League are Planning to Return as Covid-19 Lockdowns Ease
The spread of Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) at the beginning of 2020 has caused unprecedented disruption around the world. Jobs are disappearing, businesses are closing and the whole world seems to have changed overnight. Apart from these essentials, the pandemic robbed us of life’s pleasures such as the ability to eat at a restaurant, go see a movie or even watch sports, whether in person or on TV. Sparts the hasty abandonment of all sporting competition was a phenomenon totally unfamiliar to us. This decision resulted in a loss of entertainment for millions of sports fans around the globe. However, months after the pandemic began, sports are well on the way of a comeback. Improved league protocols mean it is now safer to resume sporting competition. Here is how each league is planning to return as the lockdown eases.
NFL – The National Football League escaped having its season upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, questions regarding the look of the upcoming season still lingered. The NFL cancelled it’s 4-game preseason and also instituted Covid-19 protocols which included massive amounts of testing for players, staff and coaches. Many players did test positive, New England Patriots QB, Cam Newton. However, players were also given the opportunity to opt out if they thought playing would be too risky. The league also left it up to teams to decide on fan admission, yet few have done so. Accordingly, the league has announced that Super Bowl LV, to be held in Tampa Bay, will only seat 20,000 fans, a third of its capacity.
NBA – Shortly after the 2020 All Star break, the NBA quickly found itself not knowing what to do as games were postponed following Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert’ positive Covid-19 test. There was no certainty when games would resume or if they would resume at all. However, on July 5th, league commissioner, Adam Silver, announced that 22 teams would complete the season in a Disney World bubble. There would be no fans and there would be extensive testing for all players, coaches and staff. Now that this season is complete, questions still abound for the start of the 2020-2021 season that was supposed to begin in October. Silver has expressed a desire for it to begin on Christmas Day but this is yet to be finalized.
MLB – The pandemic began its spread only months away from Major League Baseball’s usual March opening day. This left both the league and its players’ association scrambling for a way to carry out the season in the midst of a pandemic. After lengthy but unproductive discussions, the MLB reduced the season drastically from 162 games to just 60. They also directed that games were to be played in the absence of fans. The league also announced plans for widespread testing for players, coaches and staff, however they also gave players the opportunity to opt out if they still had concerns. The league announced plans for a full 162-game 2021 season to be commenced on April 1st.
NHL – Like the NBA odds, the NHL faced an uncertain season as the pandemic caused an abrupt suspension of its season. Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL’s Player’s Association (NHLPA) came together to decide on a way forward. The decision resulted in the creation of two bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto where games were to be played in the absence of fans. The league also agreed to carry out widespread testing. However, it allowed any player to opt out if concerns for their safety outweighed the benefits of playing.
Sports are an important part of our daily lives and its absence has left an unmistakable void. The good news is that leagues are finding ways to survive in the midst of the pandemic so sports can always be on the airwaves.
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