Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 138

Coronavirus and Sports

From SBJ Publisher & Exec Editor Abe Madkour

Dear Friends,

I hope you are healthy and safe during this turbulent time. At SBJ, we are committed to the health and well-being of our colleagues while also serving you, our readers and clients, with the latest business news, tools and information during this unprecedented period in our history.

As of Monday, our entire staff is working remotely across the country. Last week, we announced that we are transforming our World Congress of Sports to a series of virtual conferences that will offer content and networking around the industry’s challenges and the road ahead. Our first in the series, "World Congress of Sports Comes to You," is scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. ET. The goal is to offer compelling and engaging content to help the sports industry make more informed decisions during a time of great uncertainty. It will also allow for networking and one-to-one conversation opportunities. Gain access to the entire series for only $299. To sign up, please go to the registration page. In addition, we are evaluating our '20 live events calendar and will be back in touch as soon as we reach decisions.

Editorially, we are utilizing our entire newsroom to deliver the most up-to-date, insightful and informative content around COVID-19 and its impact on the sports industry. We are committed to covering all angles of this incredibly important story and bring you essential information through our various platforms. Here’s what you can expect: 

We have lifted our paywall of THE DAILY'’s coverage around the impact of COVID-19 in sports. Readers will be able to access daily, breaking news as it happens by visiting the Coronavirus and Sports page.

We have created a newsletter, “SBJ Unpacks: Weathering COVID-19,” that will be sent to all subscribers and conference attendees every weekday evening offering the most important news of the day, as well as insight and analysis of the state of the sports business. With our focus on this story, we will temporarily halt production of the SBJ Media and SBJ College newsletters, dedicating all of our resources to this important story. To sign up, go here and enter your email address.

We have created a regular podcast series under our “SBJ Unpacks” brand, where Senior Writer Bill King talks to various experts in delving into the issues of the day. To listen, visit the podcast page.

This pandemic has affected all of us and SBJ understands our responsibility to bring you fair, accurate and timely coverage and service. I’m proud of the work of my colleagues as we aim to keep you informed. On behalf of SBJ, we appreciate your support, and we’re here for you. Please let me know your questions, thoughts and comments at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Stay healthy and stay safe.

The Kentucky Derby has been held on the first Saturday in May every year since '45
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Kentucky Derby has been held on the first Saturday in May every year since '45
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Kentucky Derby has been held on the first Saturday in May every year since '45
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said it was a "very difficult" decision to move the Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May for only the second time in the race's 145-year history, but postponing the race "must be done," according to Chris Otts of Louisville-based WDRB-Fox. The Derby now will be run on Sept. 5. This year marks the "first time since 1945 -- when the Derby was run in June -- that the race "will not be on the first Saturday in May." Churchill Downs' "second-biggest race day of the year, the Kentucky Oaks, will be held as always the day before, Sept. 4." Carstanjen called the coronavirus pandemic the most "difficult and challenging circumstances the horse industry has faced in his career." Otts notes Churchill Downs' plan is "predicated on the novel virus being contained by Labor Day." Otts: "But what if it isn't?" Carstanjen "did not detail the company's contingency plans except to rule out running the race without the presence of fans." Carstanjen: "The Kentucky Derby is a participatory event. Its energy and its magic really comes from everybody participating and being there to enjoy it. We're gonna make it happen" (WDRB.com, 3/17). In N.Y., Salam & Vigdor note the postponement of the race came as Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear "ordered schools and restaurants closed to try to prevent the spread of the virus in the state" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). 

BEHIND THE PROCESS: Carstanjen said that the Sept. 5 date was chosen "after talks with NBC Sports, which televises the Triple Crown races, based on the limited number of sports events that weekend and hotel availability in Louisville." The AP's Beth Harris notes the Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, "draws strong TV ratings." The Sept. 5 date "wouldn't conflict with Notre Dame football, satisfying NBC Sports, which televises both." Univ. of Louisville football has an away game that day. Carstanjen said that Churchill Downs alerted the two other Triple Crown tracks -- Pimlico in Baltimore and Belmont Park in N.Y. -- as it "got close to completing a new date with NBC." Carstanjen: "They were receptive and had their own questions. There is time in the calendar that NBC can make available. They just have to work it out together and I hope they do" (AP, 3/17).

BEST POSSIBLE SOLUTION: In Louisville, Tim Sullivan writes rescheduling the Derby for Sept. 5 "took some thought," after the CDC's latest recommendation "forced the hand of the fence-straddlers at Churchill Downs." Churchill Downs currently controls three sets of '20 racing dates: April 25-June 27; Sept. 16-27 and Oct. 28-Nov. 29. However, additional dates "can be made available on an emergency basis by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission." Meanwhile, NBC’s contractual commitment to Notre Dame "leaves only two Saturdays between late August and early December when the network is not broadcasting Fighting Irish football: Sept. 5 and Oct. 24." Because the latter date "falls only two weeks before the Breeders' Cup is scheduled to be conducted at Keeneland, a tough turnaround for top 3-year-olds, the Sept. 5 date was always more logical and more likely." Whether the Derby will "retain its traditional place as the first of the Triple Crown races, however, is unclear" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 3/17).

SETTING UP FOR A HUGE FALL: ESPN’s Trey Wingo said all the sports cancellations have created a situation where fans will “have the Kentucky Derby in September and The Masters in October.” Wingo: “This is going to be a bleak spring and early summer … but the bounty we could reap back in the fall could be incredible” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/17). In Louisville, Eric Crawford writes, “To have the Derby looming ahead of us in September is a gift. The Derby now is the light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully. There’s no telling how things will look then, but the hope is that it’ll be safe to throw a party once again” (WDRB.com, 3/17). In L.A., Mark Whicker: “If we have to wait until Labor Day to remind ourselves how overrated a mint julep can be and how majestic a 20-horse stampede can look, so be it” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/17).

ADDITIONAL FALLOUT: In Baltimore, Childs Walker notes the Derby being postponed "could lead to a similar postponement for the Preakness Stakes, traditionally run at Pimlico Race Course two weeks after the Derby." The Maryland Jockey Club yesterday in a statement said it is working to "determine the most appropriate time to conduct the Preakness Stakes" (BALTIMORE SUN, 3/17). In Louisville, Eric Crawford reported Keeneland Race Course has canceled its '20 spring meet, which was to run from April 2-24, and full refunds will be "issued for tickets already purchased." Keeneland will "continue to stable horses already on its grounds, but will take no additional horses" (WDRB.com, 3/16).

BUCKING THE TREND: DAILY RACING FORM's David Grening noted the New York Racing Association is planning for "live racing to continue at Aqueduct, though with increased restrictions." Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is "scheduled to hold an eight-race card Friday," and is "scheduled to race Fridays through Sundays through March." Aqueduct has 13 cards scheduled in April "before racing is scheduled to move to Belmont Park on April 24." Aqueduct raced last weekend with "certain restrictions, such as allowing owners access only to a horsemen's lounge on the second floor of the track." Starting Friday, owners will be "completely barred from Aqueduct as well as the barn area at Belmont Park." Many people "felt racing operations went well at Aqueduct last weekend" (DRF.com, 3/16).

Dodger Stadium has been undergoing offseason renovations, some in anticipation of the All-Star Game
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Dodger Stadium has been undergoing offseason renovations, some in anticipation of the All-Star Game
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Dodger Stadium has been undergoing offseason renovations, some in anticipation of the All-Star Game
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The earliest MLB could begin its season due to the CDC's recommendations is May 9, which means the first All-Star Game scheduled for Dodger Stadium in 40 years could be "delayed this year, or rescheduled for another year," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. MLB yesterday said that it "remains hopeful" of playing the game in L.A. this year (L.A. TIMES, 3/17). In Chicago, Vinnie Duber wrote due to the MLB season being pushed back, the All-Star Game "needs to go." MLB's midsummer showcase will "need to be sacrificed for an extra week’s worth of games." There are "probably TV contracts and an awful lot of advertising revenue and the collective bargaining agreement and a ton of other legally binding documents that might allow that show to go on." But if MLB's "biggest concern is cramming in as many regular-season games as possible before snow covers half the stadiums in the game, this would be a good way to buy another week" (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 3/16).

FOLLOWING GUIDELINES: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred yesterday said that Opening Day would be delayed indefinitely and that it "could be at least eight weeks before teams are cleared to gather in groups larger than 50." He added, "We’re not going to announce an alternate opening day at this point. We’re going to have to see how things develop. I think the commitment of the clubs is to play as many baseball games in 2020 as we can, consistent with the safety of our players and our fans." Manfred stressed that a goal is "still to play a complete 162-game schedule." However, when asked if there was a date that was no longer possible, he said that he "didn’t know." In St. Louis, Derrick Goold notes Manfred's office and the MLBPA "remain engaged in negotiations about more urgent matters before sketching out what various regular-season schedules and pay structures look like." In addition to spring stipends and pay for players on the 40-man roster and those remaining in major league camps, Manfred said that the union and his office "must agree if rosters are frozen during his stoppage of operations" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/17).

WOULDN'T COUNT ON IT: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner reports MLB officials have privately acknowledged that 162 games will "almost certainly not happen" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). In Boston, Peter Abraham notes teams will have "missed approximately 42 games if the season starts May 11." That would "seemingly leave little chance of a 162-game season, but a revised schedule of 120 games could work." Different ways of "formatting the schedule and playoffs are being considered" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/17). In N.Y., Kristie Ackert cites several MLB execs as saying that June 1 is the "earliest they can see baseball being played at this point, with at least a two-week ramp up" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/17). In Detroit, Tony Paul writes, "You're probably looking at June 1, at the earliest, with baseball optimistically getting in maybe a 100-game season" (DETROIT NEWS, 3/17).

LONG WAIT AHEAD: On Long Island, David Lennon writes just doing the math "suggests the entire first half of the regular season now could be in jeopardy." Under the "best-case scenario, and if the eight-week ban indeed is lifted on schedule, MLB could get the green light to proceed on roughly May 16." But from that point, players "still would need a minimum of two weeks to prepare" (NEWSDAY, 3/17). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer notes various reports cited execs as "speculating that the season might not start until July." The status of the Cubs-Cardinals series in London in June is "at least doubtful at this point" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/17). In Boston, Steve Hewitt writes, "It sure doesn’t seem like baseball will be played for a long time" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/17).

ANY PREDICTIONS? ESPN.com's Jeff Passan wrote, "My over-under on when the MLB season will begin has been the All-Star Game, based on both the sentiment of people high up in baseball and at the union and simply looking at the trajectory of Italy." But even then, that "feels somewhat optimistic." ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "There are folks at the team level who think that a return in June might be possible," but in the end, that "may be an optimistic projection" (ESPN.com, 3/16). In DC, Dave Sheinin notes MLB's calendar is "hemmed in by the winter weather in the northern half of the country, which would make it impossible to extend the postseason schedule deep into November or beyond -- barring an unprecedented move to a neutral-site stadium with a dome or in a warmer climate" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote there "can be no real plan" for MLB. There will be as "many games played as there is time for them, when the time does come" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/16).

Manfred said that there should be no organized activities at the Spring Training camps
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Manfred said that there should be no organized activities at the Spring Training camps
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Manfred said that there should be no organized activities at the Spring Training camps
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he is "urging players to leave spring-training sites, but the facilities will remain open for limited access," although teams will not be permitted to organize even informal workouts, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY (3/17). Manfred: "There should be no organized activities in the camps." Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said, "This is a crisis situation in our country." In St. Louis, Ben Frederickson writes baseball is a "sport that lingers." That is what made yesterday's "hard stop so jarring." Frederickson: "Manfred is easy to rip. He waited too long to cancel spring training, but he made the right call Monday" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/17). In L.A., Castillo & Torres note MLB yesterday issued a directive "prohibiting all domestic and international scouting until further notice" (L.A. TIMES, 3/17). In K.C., Lynn Worthy reports the Royals are "not allowing players to work out in large groups." The club "sent the majority of the baseball staff, front office staff and public relations staff home by Sunday, but the facility will remain open for players on the 40-man roster as well as to accommodate many of their international players currently in the minors who can’t go back to their home countries" (KANSAS CITY STAR, 3/17). 

CAMP REPORTS: In Newark, Brendan Kuty cites a source as saying that the “vast majority” of Yankees players are still in Tampa for Spring Training. The source said that players "anticipate training at George M. Steinbrenner Field" today. The source added that he "wasn’t sure how the workouts would look, with the Yankees possibly staggering the number of players allowed to train at the same time" in light of the CDC's guidelines to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/17). In Pittsburgh, Jason Mackey notes the Pirates' workouts are "mostly individual and will be done throughout the day to practice good social distancing." GM Ben Cherington said that "nobody has explicitly told the Pirates they couldn’t hold group workouts" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/17). A's Senior Advisor to Baseball Operations Sandy Alderson yesterday said that it "defies logic that players are still working out." He added, “I would be surprised if anybody is in camp after the next two or three days, because No. 1 it doesn’t make any sense from a baseball standpoint, if the season is not going to start until maybe June 1. And secondly it doesn’t make any sense in terms of setting an example for the rest of the population to have a bunch of athletes running around playing catch. That does not constitute social distancing” (N.Y. POST, 3/17). 

CHALLENGING TIMES: In N.Y., Joel Sherman reports the MLBPA "sent a counter-proposal Sunday night to MLB's original overture on how to handle a myriad of issues impacting the game such as whether players will be paid or not." MLB's first offer "included a lump payment to all major leaguers to help especially those most in need due to missed games and lost paychecks." Because it "had to negotiate this with a union, MLB was dealing with major leaguers first before addressing if and how to pay minor leaguers and club employees/gameday workers who are financially impacted by this shutdown" as well. Sherman: "Pretty much every element of player/management relationship is impacted by the suspension of play, such as pay, service time, how to handle performance bonuses and -- at this moment -- how to house players (notably from other countries) who may not be able to get home or have concerns about getting back into the United States when there is clearance to return to play" (N.Y. POST, 3/17). 

FIRST CASE CONFIRMED: In N.Y., Dan Martin cited a source as confirming that Yankees minor league P Denny Larrondo, a 17-year-old from Cuba, was the "first professional baseball player to test positive for coronavirus" (N.Y.  POST, 3/17).

The NHL will not provide guidance on the potential reopening of practices for another 45 days
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The NHL will not provide guidance on the potential reopening of practices for another 45 days
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The NHL will not provide guidance on the potential reopening of practices for another 45 days
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NHL "significantly pushed back its timeline of when it can potentially resume playing by several weeks, if not a month or more," as a result of the coronavirus, according to Wawrow & Whyno of the AP. The NHL also "cautioned that it will not be able to even provide guidance on the potential reopening of team practices for another 45 days, which could push any potential return to play into May." Under the new timeline, it would "mean facilities would not be opened until late April at the earliest." The NHL said “depending on world developments,” consideration will be given to reopening facilities after the self-quarantine period ends in late March (AP, 3/16). In Las Vegas, Gotz & Schoen note the league "hopes to allow teams to hold camps 45 days into" the CDC's recommended eight-week ban on mass gatherings. Eight weeks from the CDC’s recommendation is May 10. That means camps "could start in late April or early May, but getting all players back could be tricky." Canada "closed its border to noncitizens and nonresidents Monday, with exceptions that include U.S. citizens." That means European NHLers "will not be permitted to enter Canada for the foreseeable future." The NHL has seven Canadian teams, and European players on those squads could now face "challenges rejoining their clubs, and opposing teams could face issues traveling to Canada" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/17).

CAN LORD STANLEY'S CUP BE SAVED? In Boston, Matt Porter writes it is "doubtful the regular season can be saved." However, in announcing the leaguewide pause last Thursday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he "hoped to award the Stanley Cup." Bettman reiterated that hope yesterday, saying in a SiriusXM interview that “whatever we do will have a credibility and integrity to it.” He also said that there is a "point on the calendar where the NHL will not be able to finish this season, but did not offer a firm date" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/17). In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes at this point it is "possible the remainder of the season could be canceled altogether," but the NHL "hasn’t backed down from its intention to award a Stanley Cup." However, it is "clear the NHL is running out of runway in terms of finishing out this season." Bettman: “We haven’t ruled anything in or anything out. Other than it’s got to be the right thing in terms of the well-being of our players and our fans" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/17). NHL Network's Elliotte Friedman noted "nobody" in the NHL wants the league to still be playing once the Tokyo Games begin, if they start on schedule. Friedman said, "The Olympics are the biggest event in the world. ... You don't want to go head-to-head with that." Should the Games not take place in late July as planned, some officials might "kind of wonder" about playing that late into the summer ("NHL Tonight," NHL Network, 3/16). However, the NATIONAL POST's Robert Tychkowski writes, "You have to wonder if, in allowing players to fan out across North America and the world, the NHL isn’t bracing itself for the stark realization that hockey isn’t coming back this year" (NATIONAL POST, 3/17).

LOOKING AT EXPANDED PLAYOFFS? TSN's Bob McKenzie said finishing the regular season “is not going to happen" with the new timeline in place. McKenzie added that a 24-team playoff, instead of 16, with "some kind of a play-in format could be a possibility, taking into account teams that were on the postseason bubble and giving them a chance" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 3/17). TSN's Darren Dreger also said the league is "considering no regular season games and perhaps differing playoff formulas." The 24-team playoff idea has been a "hot" topic. TSN's Gino Reda added, "In fairness to the league, this is the plan right now ... (but) as we've seen already, the landscape shifts almost on a daily basis" ("That's Hockey," TSN, 3/16).

Events at Atlanta Motor Speedway were some of the first scrubbed from the NASCAR calendar
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Events at Atlanta Motor Speedway were some of the first scrubbed from the NASCAR calendar
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Events at Atlanta Motor Speedway were some of the first scrubbed from the NASCAR calendar
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The suspension of NASCAR’s '20 season will "continue at least through the May 3 race" at Dover Int'l Speedway in Delaware, as the "current plan is to resume racing the second weekend of May" at Martinsville Speedway, according to Ken Willis of the DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL. NASCAR’s official statement, released early last night, suggested the governing body "intends to run its entire slate of 36 Cup Series races this year, a desire that would require some unique scheduling through the summer and early fall." Last weekend’s Atlanta events and this coming weekend’s races at Homestead-Miami Speedway were the "initial scrubs, but Monday brought the official postponement of races at Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover" (DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL, 3/17).

NEXT BEST THING? In Charlotte, Alex Andrejev wrote NASCAR's iRacing Replacements 100 virtual race from Atlanta on Sunday "still allowed the NASCAR community to get their racing fix for the weekend." Former and current Cup Series drivers -- including Dale Earnhardt Jr., William Byron, Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace -- "participated in a 37-driver field on the 1.5 mile-track." The "look and feel of the virtual race was similar to any broadcast you’d watch on television." The race was streamed on Twitch and "peaked at nearly 30,000 viewers roughly 15 minutes after its start." By the end of the race, that number had "dropped to an audience of nearly 23,000 viewers." The steaming and commentating was "high-quality, but the technical side is not perfect and a lot can depend on the PC a given driver is using." Drivers were each "allowed one 'reset' for the race, so they were able to continue with a new virtual car if they wrecked out" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/16). ESPN.com's Arda Ocal noted the virtual event "came together in two days as a way to keep racing fans engaged" (ESPN.com, 3/15).

The NFL has distributed talking points to teams about season-ticket refunds if games are canceled, the first indication that the coronavirus outbreak could jeopardize part of the NFL’s season. The memo was sent to all 32 clubs on Friday, suggesting teams tell fans: "We have every expectation of playing a full schedule in 2020 and look forward to you joining us at [name of stadium] for an exciting season. But we also understand your concerns and want to be clear about our club’s policies, which will apply to season tickets purchased directly from the [club]." If games are canceled and not rescheduled, or if games are played under "conditions that prohibit fans from attending (for example, if a public authority restricts gatherings to no more than a small number of people)," season-ticket holders would get a prorated refund or credit to future purchases (Ben Fischer, SBJ UNPACKS). Meanwhile, all offseason activities, such as meetings, practices and minicamps, have been "delayed indefinitely as a safeguard against the new coronavirus." No players "can enter a club facility through March 31, with the exception of those receiving medical treatment" (AP, 3/16).

UFC was one of the last sports organizations in the world that put off suspending play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
UFC was one of the last sports organizations in the world that put off suspending play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
UFC was one of the last sports organizations in the world that put off suspending play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The UFC has "postponed its next three events, the last of which was scheduled to take place on April 11," due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com. UFC President Dana White yesterday "alerted his entire staff of the decision via email." White indicated that the company was "prepared to do whatever it took to move forward with UFC Fight Night events on March 21, March 28 and April 11, but the White House's recommendation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people made hosting events impossible." The first event scheduled after April 11 is the UFC 249 PPV set for Barclays Center on April 18 that "features a highly anticipated lightweight title fight" between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. White said that UFC "still plans to promote that event for now, either in New York or elsewhere." Okamoto noted UFC was "one of the last sports organizations in the world that had put off suspending play." The promotion "held a UFC Fight Night event on Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil, without fans in the arena." UFC's "original plan was to move the events to its Apex facility in Las Vegas," but those plans were "nixed last weekend when the Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended all combat sports in the state" (ESPN.com, 3/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Jack Baer noted UFC's decision will put the promotion "in line with nearly every other major sports league that has suspended its season or cancelled events, including the NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, PGA Tour and several soccer leagues." The writing had "likely been on the wall for days before White made his decision" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/16). SPORTSNET.ca's Mike Johnston wrote UFC "held out as long as they could" (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/16).

A FIGHTER'S MENTALITY: ESPN's Zubin Mehenti last night wondered why UFC 249 is a go, while the "other ones right now are not going to happen." White said, "We’re going to follow these guidelines to not have more than 10 people in a room, and we’re hoping that this all clears up by April." He said of Nurmagomedov-Ferguson, "This fight is going to happen. No crowd, whatever it takes. Probably not even going to be in the United States. But this fight’s going to happen." White acknowledged there was some "blowback from the media" about the UFC's initial plans to hold all its scheduled events, but he said, "This is what we do. We put fights on every weekend. The fighters want to fight, the fans want to see it. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the fans and the fighters. These guys all want to continue, so we will" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/16).

WRESTLEMANIA ON THE MOVE: In Tampa, Joey Knight reports WrestleMania 36 will be "held as scheduled on April 5, but on a closed set" at the WWE's Performance Center in Orlando with "only 'essential personnel' allowed to attend." All ancillary events, "set to be held at various venues including Amalie Arena and the Tampa Convention Center in the week leading up to WrestleMania, are off." They included the WWE HOF induction ceremony and "at least two nationally televised weekly live productions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/17). In Orlando, Jay Reddick notes the city has hosted WrestleMania twice before, in '08 and '17, "but never like this." The Performance Center has been WWE's "main training facility since it opened" in '13. It was "never intended as a performance space," but the company's various TV products "have aired from there during the past week" without fans (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/17).

Warriors G Stephen Curry "turned into one of the most influential voices in public health" on Sunday night when he took to Twitter to remind his millions of followers to follow CDC guidelines, serving as a "remarkable example of one of sports’ biggest names using his social media for good," according to Cohen & Robinson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Curry "sounded like a spokesman" for the CDC. He "encouraged followers to maintain a distance of six feet from others," reminded them to wash their hands with soap and water, and "even implored them to 'flatten the curve.'" Curry’s video had 2.2 million views on Twitter and 1.4 million views on Instagram by noon yesterday. His wide reach shows sports stars are "succeeding where many government officials have failed," while the "successful government officials include the ones who have leaned on sports stars for help." Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards "enlisted" LSU football coach Ed Orgeron, and what Orgeron said in a one-minute spot released by the governor’s office "may have been the first time anyone outside Louisiana understood him." Portugal and Juventus F Cristiano Ronaldo, to his 83 million followers on Twitter and 207 million on Instagram, said, "It is important we follow the advice of WHO (World Health Organization)" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/17).

ON CAMPUS: In Raleigh, Brian Murphy notes Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, UNC's Roy Williams and N.C. State's Kevin Keatts starred in a new North Carolina "public service announcement about the pandemic." North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper posted the short commercial on his Twitter page last night. Williams at the end of the PSA says, "We live in a strong and resilient state. We can beat this, but we all must play on the same team right now" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/17).

Bulls Chair JERRY REINSDORF and Blackhawks Chair ROCKY WIRTZ made a more than $3.3M commitment to the "roughly 1,200 workers" who help run United Center on game days, according to Danny Ecker of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS (3/16). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Mike Bianchi notes the DEVOS family, which owns the Magic, is funding a $2M "compensation package that will pay hourly employees for the rest of the regular season" for games missed at Amway Center (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/17). In Detroit, JC Reindl notes the Quicken Loans Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation will donate a combined $1.2M to "help with the impact of coronavirus in Detroit" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/17). In New Orleans, Amie Just notes Saints and Pelicans Owner GAYLE BENSON will be donating $1M to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund "in response to the coronavirus pandemic" (NOLA.com, 3/16). In Atlanta, Eric Jackson noted Falcons Owner ARTHUR BLANK "has committed to pay all hourly employees who work under The Blank Family of Business" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/15). 

MEAL PLANS: The Chargers made a $250,000 donation to the L.A. Regional Food Bank to help out with coronavirus relief (L.A. Food Bank). In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel notes Colts Owner JIM IRSAY is challenging locals to "raise $200,000 for Gleaners Food Bank." If that amount is raised, Irsay will "write a check to Gleaners" for $1M (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/17). The Broncos are "funding 100,000 meals to the Food Bank of the Rockies to help those who have been affected" by coronavirus, while Broncos K BRANDON MCMANUS is "pledging 20,000 meals through his Project McManus Foundation" (DENVER POST, 3/17). Chiefs WR TYREEK HILL is "partnering with Harvesters to donate 6,000 meals to families" (K.C. STAR, 3/17). In Chicago, Mark Gonzales notes Cubs 1B ANTHONY RIZZO's eponymous foundation will "provide meals to nurses at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital through the foundation’s restaurant partners." Rizzo is a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/17).

HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES: In St. Louis, Jacob Barker notes the Blues have "launched a new fund" that is a collaboration between Blues ownership, led by TOM STILLMAN, players, D ALEX PIETRANGELO and local donors, led by a $100,000 donation from Blues season-ticket holder and entrepreneur ANDY FRISELLA. How much the fund has raised thus far "was unclear." It appears the fund will "only benefit the several hundred employees who are paid directly by the Blues organization on game nights." Another 400-500 employees "work for concession contractor Levy Restaurants" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/17). See a listing of players and teams who have pledged to financially support arena workers.