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Volume 26 No. 138

Coronavirus and Sports

Abe (c) said he wants to hold the Games perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the coronavirus
Photo: getty images
Abe (c) said he wants to hold the Games perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the coronavirus
Photo: getty images
Abe (c) said he wants to hold the Games perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the coronavirus
Photo: getty images

Olympic insiders have reported a growing acceptance that the Tokyo Games simply cannot happen as planned, despite the IOC’s statement yesterday that it “remains fully committed” to this summer's event. The IOC noted there are still “four months to go." But experts don’t believe the normal preparations can be made with the unpredictability of the virus’ course. Sources said that the situation for U.S. and European athletes is untenable. Most Americans have not yet qualified, and qualified or not, it is hard to train under “social distancing” measures that have closed gyms and college campuses nationwide. Sources said that an alternative path, postponing the Games one year until summer '21, now is in play. Meanwhile, the USOPC BOD today starts a two-day meeting by teleconference, its first regularly scheduled meeting since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. The meeting will likely be dominated by discussion of the virus’ possible effects on the Tokyo Games. It is the first board meeting for new member Dr. Vivik Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General who was appointed earlier this year to replace former Michael Bloomberg aide Dan Doctorff. Murthy advised the NBA BOG on the virus earlier this week. USOPC leaders say they will take post-board meeting questions from the media on Friday morning (Ben Fischer, THE DAILY).

JUST A MATTER OF TIME? The AP's Paul Newberry wrote it "seems a fait accompli" that the IOC will be forced to delay the Tokyo Games, a fact that organization and Japanese Olympic officials are "slowly accepting after defiantly proclaiming for weeks that the games would go on as planned." Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after an IOC meeting yesterday said, "I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus." Newberry: "The best time for that is next year." A decision about this year "shouldn't be stretched out for more than another month." Postponing the event until '21 "would certainly be an enormous, complicated task ... given the complex financial web that includes broadcasters, sponsors, sports federations and a couple hundred national Olympic committees." However, it is "hard to see any of them putting up too much resistance to staging the games in 2021 in light of current events" (AP, 3/17). In London, Matt Lawton cites sources who are "90 per cent certain" that the Games will be postponed (LONDON TIMES, 3/18).

IMPACT ON ATHLETES: Dave Marsh, a San Diego-based swim coach for several Olympic hopefuls, said, "If things don’t change dramatically, I don’t see how they don’t change the schedule. Let’s just do it one year later. The sooner we make that kind of decision the better.” In N.Y., Futterman & Keh report additionally, the IOC and international sports federations are "seeking to manage the final qualification process that determines who makes the Games," as just 57% of the Olympic spots have been "secured by athletes" thus far. Even if federations are "able to reschedule competitions that have been canceled, it’s not clear that athletes from every country will be able to participate because of their exposure to the coronavirus," which "could force the federations and national Olympic Committees to use current rankings to select Olympians." IOC President Thomas Bach "gave the federations until the beginning of April to come up with new qualification standards." In a letter, he "left little doubt that he remained determined to use the Olympics to signify a celebration of the end of the coronavirus crisis" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18).

QUALIFYING & TRAINING: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Bachman, Higgins & Radnofsky note U.S. Olympic-trials postponements, and the "threat of more, has thrown into disarray the usual multisport selection process for Team USA," and that is "leaving in limbo a growing pile of qualifying events for the nation that often has the largest contingent at the Games." Training "woes also continue to multiply, further throwing into doubt the situation for many of the top American hopefuls." Yesterday, the USOPC "shuttered its pool, velodrome and gymnasiums at the official Training Center in Colorado Springs for 30 days," while a training center in Lake Placid also has closed. Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic trials for wrestling, scheduled for early April, were postponed late last week (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/18). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan notes Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Lilly King "trains at her alma mater, Indiana University, but the school is now closed." King said, "A lot of the swimmers are based out of the university. We don’t really have a place to train right now." She added, "It is stressful because things are changing daily. I don’t think they’re going to cancel, but if they postpone for another year, that definitely changes a lot of people’s plans" (USA TODAY, 3/18).

WRITING ON THE WALL? In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the IOC's "blindered adherence to the appointed path is either inspiring or tone deaf." It is "inspiring because the Olympics, if they're about anything, are about perseverance." But it is "tone deaf, to some ears, because it appears to ignore some grim realities" about the coronavirus pandemic. The IOC at least acknowledged yesterday that there are "real obstacles to overcome between now and a July 24 opening ceremony." Feschuk: "In the face of a global pandemic, it would be wonderful if we could all believe there was a light at the end of the dark tunnel through which we’re travelling." But it is getting "harder and hard to imagine the world descending on Tokyo in late July" (TORONTO STAR, 3/18). In N.Y., Jules Boykoff writes under the header, "Cancel. The. Olympics," as the IOC "refusing to even consider alternatives is reckless." Boykoff: "Cancellation may appear ominous. But in reality, it would be a remarkable act of global solidarity" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18).

The NBA "clearly isn't going to let go" of the remainder of its season unless it has no choice, but the league has not yet determined "what happens if the season is ultimately canceled," according to Keith Smith of YAHOO SPORTS. In that case, the NBA has the "right to enact 'force majeure,' which could involve anything from lower payments to changed pay schedules to a full opt-out of the CBA." The league can "enact force majeure if they feel the season is lost" due to the coronavirus outbreak, and if the league does so, the players "would lose 1/96.2 of their individual salary for each regular season and playoff game missed." That is "across the board for every player." In addition, the clause also "allows the NBA to terminate the CBA," but that is the "last and least likely option for the league." Conservative estimates are that the NBA will lose $500M if games are "canceled or played without fans present" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/17).

PLAYERS' PERSPECTIVE: NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts said for the players, the revenue consequences of force majeure are "significant." Roberts: "Sure, there is language that allows the league to enforce what they perceive to be a 'force majeure' and that would have an impact on compensation for players going forward. But if it happens, there would be a recognition the league is prepared to lose tens of millions of dollars. If we can't play games or we can't have our playoffs, we're going to have an economic hit." Roberts, on conversations with the league being more about how to salvage the season than addressing force majeure, said, "We want to play games and we want to do it in a way that's safe. ... It's very difficult to say by 'X date,' we're going to resume the games. That would be foolish. But we're not throwing in the towel" (USA TODAY, 3/18).

RAISING CREDIT LINE: ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that the NBA is planning to raise its credit line by $550M to now $1.2B, which would "aid the league in handling its expenses through what is expected to be an extended shutdown." The league "discussed the plan on a call" with its BOG yesterday, a meeting that included former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy "delivering a grim forecast for the pandemic's potential impact" on the U.S. Sources said that this "further convinced owners that there could be no resumption before June -- if that is even possible" (ESPN.com, 3/17). Wojnarowski said the move gives the NBA a "chance to have some more cash flow during this extended period without basketball." He added, "The league is hunkering down for what is going to be a very long time without the game" ("Get Up," ESPN, 3/18).

SOON TO GO? In N.Y., Marc Berman cites sources as saying that next on the "coronavirus chopping block could well be the NBA Draft Lottery and Draft Combine." The Lottery is scheduled for May 19 in Chicago, and was to be followed by the Combine in the same city May 21-24 (N.Y. POST, 3/18).

Kevin Durant is "one of four Nets players who tested positive for the coronavirus," meaning at least seven NBAers now have "tested positive for the virus," according to Sopan Deb of the N.Y. TIMES. It is "not clear how many Nets employees have been tested for the virus." The team's statement said that three of the four players "did not show symptoms of the disease." Meanwhile, the issue of "unequal access to testing arose last week, after reports that 58 members of the Jazz franchise were also tested within hours" of C Rudy Gobert's positive test (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18). ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that the Nets "had the players tested by a private company, and the team paid out of pocket after they returned" from S.F. last week. The test results came back yesterday (ESPN.com, 3/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen noted N.Y. Mayor Bill de Blasio "criticized the availability for certain mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic New Yorkers while ill patients cannot get tested." He tweeted, "We wish them a speedy recovery. But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for Covid-19 while there are critically ill patients wanting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/18). 

TEAMS TAKE DIFFERING APPROACHES: In L.A., Ganguli & Turner cite sources as saying that the Lakers in response to the Nets' news "will give those players who remain in town the opportunity to be tested" today and "have asked all of their players to self-quarantine for 14 days." While there have been "instances of NBA teams having access to testing for players who have not shown symptoms," a shortage of testing kits also has "prevented members" of the Kings and Warriors from testing all of their players (L.A. TIMES, 3/18). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted some teams are "quietly" testing their players, while other teams "feel as though there’s no reason to, that teams are not going to be together." Additionally, young players "are not at risk to do anything but transmit this disease, and they’re not showing symptoms.” Wojnarowski: “If someone is asymptomatic, there are many teams that think that we don’t need to get them tested. What we need to do, like everybody in this country, is stay isolated” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 3/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Vincent Goodwill writes the "plan of testing players when some ordinary citizens are being neglected and, in a few cases, suffering dire consequences isn't a great look." Goodwill: "But the eyes of the public being focused on healthy, noticeable NBA faces who test positive for the coronavirus carries currency that's immeasurable in the long run" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/18).

NBA PLAYERS NOT UNTOUCHABLE: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes the coronavirus "spreads easily and doesn't discriminate." The number of confirmed cases in the NBA is now up to seven, but there "will be more." Hernandez: "Imagine if games had been played for even a couple more days. Or worse, if they were still being played." In retrospect, the NBA was "incredibly fortunate" that Gobert "tested positive for the virus when he did" (L.A. TIMES, 3/18). Also in L.A., Kyle Goon writes the increasing number of positive tests is an "added challenge for the NBA, which is still weighing a potential return to basketball this summer" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/18). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes under the header, "Rash Of NBA Players With Coronavirus Underscores The Disease's Scary Silence" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/18).

The PGA said that keeping the tournament at S.F.'s TPC Harding Park is absolutely a priority
Photo: getty images
The PGA said that keeping the tournament at S.F.'s TPC Harding Park is absolutely a priority
Photo: getty images
The PGA said that keeping the tournament at S.F.'s TPC Harding Park is absolutely a priority
Photo: getty images

The PGA Championship at S.F.'s TPC Harding Park "will be postponed," and the PGA of America "hopes to reschedule the event for later this summer," according to Scott Ostler of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The PGA said keeping the tournament in S.F. is "absolutely a priority." PGA CEO Seth Waugh said, "The city's going to get the option (of hosting the tourney this summer), and if doesn't work for them, we understand and we'll have to make other plans. ... It isn't about money, but it is about delivering into the city something we promised, and that's obviously Plan A. We don't have a Plan B" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/18). GOLF DIGEST's Brian Wacker cites a source as saying that it is expected that the start of the PGA Tour's FedExCup Playoffs, currently scheduled for The Northern Trust on Aug. 13-16 at TPC Boston, "will be pushed back a week, which would open the door for the PGA Championship to be played in open slot" (GOLF DIGEST, 3/18). Meanwhile, GOLFCHANNEL.com's Ryan Lavner noted the USGA yesterday announced that it was "canceling local qualifiers for the U.S. Open but will 'look to redesign qualifying' in the coming months." The USGA as of now is "continuing to 'hold the dates' for both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open." The U.S. Open is scheduled for June 18-21 at Winged Foot in New York (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 3/17).

TOUGH DECISION: GOLFWEEK's Adam Schupak noted the PGA Tour is "canceling all tournaments through the PGA Championship," meaning the following tournaments now have been called off: the RBC Heritage; Zurich Classic of New Orleans; Wells Fargo Championship; and AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. The PGA Tour's announcement "comes five days after it scrapped the Players Championship after one round" and also said that the Valspar Championship, WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay and Valero Texas Open "would be canceled." Meanwhile, the RBC Heritage and AT&T Byron Nelson said that they "will refund tickets" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/17). In Dallas, Brad Townsend notes this is the first year since 1965 that a PGA Tour event will not be played in Dallas County (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/18). Meanwhile, GOLF DIGEST's Wacker noted members of the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Committee yesterday afternoon "were on a phone call ... in which tour officials outlined the tour's move." Players "were notified shortly afterward" (GOLF DIGEST, 3/18).

RYDER CUP: GOLFWEEK's Steve DiMeglio noted the PGA of America denied reports of a possible Ryder Cup postponement, saying that they were "inaccurate." The biennial contest between the U.S. and Europe is "still on the schedule for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/17). The London Telegraph's James Corrigan in the initial report noted the Ryder Cup is "expected to be postponed until next year, with golf authorities rapidly reaching the decision that their most lucrative spectacle should not be jammed into a schedule that is contracting by the week." But with the suspension of all of the major tours, the European Tour and PGA of America -- the bodies that run the Ryder Cup -- are "ready to replicate the decision of 19 years ago" when the '01 Ryder Cup at The Belfry was "delayed for a year following the 9/11 terrorist attacks" (London TELEGRAPH, 3/17). European team captain Padraig Harrington this morning on an Irish radio show said, “September is a long way off, so there’s no change to the situation at all at this stage. ... I’m on the inside of these things. Normally you’re looking at ‘anonymous source says this,' but now that I’m on the inside, you go, ‘Wow, that really is made-up stuff’” ("Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show," Today FM, 3/18).

ASTERISK YEAR: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is "studying the possibility of some creative rescheduling," as six of his events are already canceled or postponed this season and "more likely to meet the same fate." One possibility includes "doubling up postponed events." Whan "did not lay out any specifically planned pairing of sponsors." He said, "I don't think you could expect to see a heavy dose of that, but I think you can expect to see at least one. This is going to be the year of an asterisk. There's no getting around that." Whan: "Everything is on the table" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 3/17).

Daly said the league doesn't want this hiatus to interfere with having a full season next year
Photo: getty images
Daly said the league doesn't want this hiatus to interfere with having a full season next year
Photo: getty images
Daly said the league doesn't want this hiatus to interfere with having a full season next year
Photo: getty images

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly remains hopeful the league can finish its season, but he stressed any decision would not be made "until the league receives a green light" from the CDC, according to Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. All options remain open for completing the season, but the NHL "doesn't want to do anything that would negative affect the start of next season." Games likely will not return until mid-May at the earliest, if at all, and "nobody knows if that will leave enough time to finish the season and hold the playoffs." Daly said, "I don't think there's an artificial deadline per se. The only deadline would be whether we decide to ... complete this season ... if anything. We don't want it to interfere with our ability to have a full season next year" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/18). Daly added of the current situation, "Half the battle is making sure that you know what the questions are and what all the possibilities are. And then you're doing your best to make decisions based on all the available facts" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 3/18).

WIRTZ KEEPING THINGS POSITIVE: Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz said the "best case scenario" for the NHL's return would be having a "training camp of some kind" after a 45-day break. Speaking on an NBC Sports Chicago podcast, Wirtz said, "Sixty days, guess what? We can start the season again. Like the second week of May. We can finish the season off, and who knows what the playoff format will be, but I’m very optimistic." He added, "We have to overcome these short term shocks, and we're going to be fine. We're going to finish the season, and we're going to have the playoffs, and we're going to award the Stanley Cup." Wirtz said people have to "think positive things." Wirtz: "The NHL has (been around for) 100 years. They have been in business in World Wars. We had a year-long lock out. ... I don't know how we're going to do this, but we'll figure it out." Meanwhile, he said that the commissioners from the various major North American pro leagues are in constant communication. Wirtz: "It's like a life boat. When you're in a life boat and it tips over, we all get wet" ("Blackhawks Talk Podcast," NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 3/17).

THINK TANK: TSN.ca's Frank Seravalli reported some NHLers are brainstorming ways for the league "to achieve some degree of certainty as to when the game will return." Resuming play in late May or early June "seems overly optimistic," so the players are unofficially proposing to "take a step back and chart out a return to the ice in late July." The idea has "gained traction and support" among a small subset of players. Training camps would open in early July, followed by a "truncated conclusion to the regular season that wraps up by the end of July." A two-month postseason would begin in August with the Finals held at the end of September. A "three- to four-week transition period would follow in October with the draft, free agency and training camps." The '20-21 season would begin in November and contain all 82 games "with the Stanley Cup awarded again in late June." The proposal is making its way to the NHLPA and "then potentially to the NHL" (TSN.ca, 3/17). 

Pirates GM Ben Cherington said that there has "not been any discussion about a total shutdown" of the MLB season amid talk of pushing the start of the regular season back until "at least late May or early June," according to Alex Stumpf of DKPITTSBURGHSPORTS.com. Cherington said, "Our hope is with every intention, there will be a season. That we will play major-league games, minor-league games in 2020. Play as many of them as we can, both at the major-league and minor-league level. I think there's a level of confidence that will happen, but of course none of us can know for sure" (DKPITTSBURGHSPORTS.com, 3/17). ESPN.com's Jeff Passan noted MLB "continues to negotiate" with the MLBPA about "potential payment to players, service-time considerations and other similar considerations that could largely depend on when the season resumes." The league's "uniform player contract includes a provision that allows Manfred to suspend contracts -- and payment of them -- in the case of a national emergency, which President Trump has declared." Also on the agenda for the league is "figuring out how to compensate minor league players, who received their last paycheck at the end" of the '19 season and were "paid only a per diem" during Spring Training (ESPN.com, 3/17).

TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWN: The Padres yesterday said that they will "continue to pay minor league players their spring training per diems -- about $160 a week -- relieving some concerns that ran rampant when the Padres sent them home over the weekend." In San Diego, Jeff Sanders notes the pay is "expected to continue through April 8, which would have been the end of their spring training." A Padres spokesperson said that MLB is "still working on a compensation plan for what would have been the start of the minor league season April 9." Baseball America reported that the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays and Mets also have "outlined plans to compensate minor league players who generally do not receive pay until the season is underway" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/18). In S.F., Matt Kawahara, citing an MLBPA memo sent Monday, notes players who "return home or relocate to their teams' major-league cities will receive $1,100 per week living allowance from the players union through April 9, or whenever teams resume paying that allowance." That "applies to players on 40-man rosters and some non-roster invitees but does not include minor-league players" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/18).

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY? In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes it is time for MLB to "get creative and make the game refreshingly attractive upon its return." That means "intelligent marketing" and "bringing fans an up-close look at players they know mostly from performance." With a "few creative thinkers in charge," it "could help restore the game's traditional appeal." Jenkins: "Whatever changes may come, the marketing angle is an absolute must for this troubled game, and the timing will be crucial." The whole idea is to "get close to these elite athletes, see how they live and interact with loved ones." Let them "tell stories about their upbringing, their most compelling moments on the field, how things changed over the long, disruptive break" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/18). In DC, Thomas Boswell writes when MLB "does return, like many ordinary wonderful things, it suddenly will seem like an extraordinary wonderful thing" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/18).

No league has yet taken on the collective effort to provide relief like MLB, securing $1M from each club
Photo: getty images
No league has yet taken on the collective effort to provide relief like MLB, securing $1M from each club
Photo: getty images
No league has yet taken on the collective effort to provide relief like MLB, securing $1M from each club
Photo: getty images

All 30 MLB teams will contribute $1M to "support their gameday employees who are missing paychecks during the sport’s shutdown," according to Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. REGISTER. MLB yesterday said that the 30 clubs would contribute $30M to "support the ushers, vendors, security guards, ticket-takers and other seasonal workers who will be affected." Fletcher notes many ballpark employees are "paid by the game and will not have that income during the delay." If the schedule is cut, their income "likely would be reduced" (O.C. REGISTER, 3/18). USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes notes many individual franchises in sports have "made similar pledges to assist stadium workers, as have certain star players." However, no league has "taken on the collective effort to provide relief like MLB, securing the million-dollar commitment from each organization" (USA TODAY, 3/18). In Newark, Brendan Kuty notes MLB teams are "still working out how and when they will distribute the money" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/18). The Red Sox said that they have "approximately 1,300 affected employees." In Boston, Michael Silverman notes using the 1,300 figure, a $1M bailout "amounts to almost $770 per Red Sox employee" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/18).

NO EASY TASK: In Seattle, Ryan Divish notes the Mariners were "already in the position of having their first homestand relocated to a different venue" before MLB suspended the season. As a result, they had "begun the process of trying to find a way to help the approximately 1,100 employees that are on hourly wages and reliant on events at T-Mobile Park." Mariners President & CEO Kevin Mather said, "We knew two weeks ago we were going to miss seven games. So we were already working on a plan." Mather "lauded the efforts of the hourly employees, who manage every aspect of the game-day experience and more" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/18).

COLLECTIVE EFFORT: In Portland, Jamie Goldberg notes the Timbers and NWSL Portland Thorns have "created a financial assistance fund to help support part-time staff members and are undertaking other initiatives" to aid the local community. Peregrine Sports, the parent company for the two clubs, will use the fund to "pay fan experience and merchandise staff, among others, for games missed" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/18). Predators President & CEO Sean Henry said that employees at Bridgestone Arena will be "paid for canceled events they were scheduled to work, such as the recent SEC men's basketball tournament." In Nashville, Paul Skrbina notes a "bigger-picture plan is still being discussed about how to proceed should more events be canceled" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/18). In Houston, Chandler Rome notes Astros CF George Springer "donated $100,000 to Minute Maid Park employees" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/18).

OTHER DONATIONS: The Penguins' foundations will "auction unused St. Patrick's Days jerseys for the benefit of various charities including those geared towards aiding individuals impacted" (TRIBLIVE.com, 3/17). Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara, said that they will "donate 1 million meals to Food Lifeline through the Feeding America nationwide network to help those suffering" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/18). In Minneapolis, McLellan & Hine note the Wild and Xcel Energy Center have "donated more than 2,400 pounds of perishable food items from the arena and Herbies On The Park to Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Place and Ronald McDonald House Charities since the NHL paused its season Thursday." Meanwhile, T'Wolves and WNBA Minnesota Lynx Owner Glen Taylor said that both organizations will pledge a $1M "relief fund to aid part-time workers of Target Center events" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/18).

A spokesperson for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan posted on Twitter that the state is in "active discussions to POSTPONE the Preakness Stakes until September," according to Childs Walker of the BALTIMORE SUN. The post came just a few hours after Kentucky Derby officials confirmed their delay to Sept. 5. Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said that organizers of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes are "currently negotiating with NBC to move their races to September and early October, respectively." Derby officials "gave organizers of the Preakness and Belmont a 'heads up' as they finalized plans for the Sept. 5 move." Carstanjen said his counterparts were "receptive," but "they have their own questions" (BALTIMORE SUN, 3/18). In DC, Adam Zielonka notes the Preakness, originally scheduled for May 16, "would follow the Kentucky Derby in being pushed back." Hogan on Sunday "ordered all racetracks and casinos in the state to close indefinitely" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/18).

PREPARING TO MOVE: The NYRA yesterday said that it "still intends to run the Belmont Stakes this year but that the date could change." On Long Island, Jim Baumbach notes the race, scheduled for June 6, is the third leg of the Triple Crown and "draws crowds as large as 100,000." The last time the Belmont Stakes was not run was 1912, when the race "took a two-year break due to anti-gambling legislation in New York." Meanwhile, Aqueduct Racetrack will "continue to race on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through March 29" (NEWSDAY, 3/18).