Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 178

Coronavirus and Sports

NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said that "widespread testing would have to be available before the reopening of the league could be contemplated," according to Judy Battista of NFL.com. Sills "cautioned against assuming that earlier comments from league officials about the league's focus on starting the season on time mean it will definitely happen." He said, "That's everyone's hope, that we are in a position to do that. But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now." Sills added that the "widespread availability of point of care testing -- where a test could be administered, and the results returned quickly -- will be critical to decisions about when teams can report to facilities." Those tests are not currently available, but Sills said that he is "confident they eventually will be, but he can't say when." Sills warned that it is "too early to say how large groups of fans would be handled until a vaccine is available" (NFL.com, 4/3). 

PLAYING A DELICATE GAME: SI.com’s Albert Breer wrote the NFL “has partners, sponsors and advertisers to worry about,” and NFL Exec VP and General Counsel Jeff Pash on Tuesday was speaking to them when he "painted perhaps the most optimistic picture of the COVID-19 pandemic that any of us have seen anywhere in weeks." The idea “matches up perfectly with the decision to go forward with the new league year … and the forceful nature with which they’re pushing ahead with the draft.” However, Breer wrote, “Someone, anyone, at some point, should’ve raised their hand and asked the same question that could’ve saved the NFL a lot of trouble over the last decade, in countless scandals that made pro football look like a ruthless circus: Are we doing the right thing?” (SI.com, 4/1). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, “The NFL might indeed be able to release its schedule on May 9, but to talk about it right now is just tone-deaf” (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 4/1). 

NO REASON NOT TO GO AHEAD: ESPN's Mike Greenberg said he has heard "many people be critical of the NFL for holding the draft at all in three weeks, and I don't really understand that criticism." He said, "If we thought that three weeks later everything would be different, then that would be one thing. But I don't know there's any reason to believe that. ... I don't think, aside from all of the fans that would normally be there, it will really be that different than any other year” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/2). In Detroit, John Niyo wrote the NFL “wants everyone to know it’s indispensable.” Niyo: “Maybe it is. Maybe that’s OK, too, as the NFL’s offseason provides a much-needed diversion for sports fans, filling in a landscape that’s just tumbleweeds otherwise. … Maybe this is simply the NFL’s way of projecting confidence in a time of overwhelming uncertainty, trying to reassure fans and business partners -- sponsors, advertisers, TV networks, and so on -- that everything will be fine” (DETROIT NEWS, 4/2). In Pittsburgh, Tim Benz wrote he has “zero problem with the draft progressing as scheduled.” Benz: “We’re all supposed to stay inside our houses these days anyway. What keeps people inside their homes to sit on their butts and watch television more effectively than the NFL Draft?” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/2). 

JUST NOT THE RIGHT TIME: In N.Y., Paul Schwartz wrote this is “no time for full-steam ahead, no time to steadfastly hold” the draft as normal. He notes it is “not appropriate” under the current state of affairs and writes, “Postpone it. Move it back. There is no reason the NFL draft cannot be a month later, in mid-or-late May” (N.Y. POST, 4/2). The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote, "It’s not a time to celebrate anything, especially a No. 1 draft pick. The draft can wait" (AP, 4/2).

The WNBA has postponed the start of its training camps and the start of its regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The regular season was to start on May 15 with training camps to open on April 26. No new dates have yet been determined. The league will keep its draft on April 17, though it will be held "virtually" to adhere to social distancing guidelines (John Lombardo, THE DAILY). The AP's Doug Feinberg notes two WNBA cities -- N.Y. and Seattle -- are "major hot spots for the virus." Angels of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., one of the Storm's homes this year, "is being used as a coronavirus isolation site." Additionally, the casinos that house both the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun are closed (AP, 4/3). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel notes the WNBA "had a monthlong break -- July 11 to Aug. 15 -- planned this year" because of the Tokyo Games. With the Olympics being postponed a year, the league "has a little more leeway in terms of potential rescheduling" (ESPN.com, 4/3).

UNFORTUNATE TIMING: THE ATHLETIC's Hannah Withiam notes the "uncertainty surrounding the pandemic raises concerns for a league whose business relies on momentum from season to season in the form of ticket sales, brand partnerships and television deals." That is "particularly true this year as the WNBA enters its first season" under a new CBA (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/3).

The NBA has experience hosting games in Las Vegas via the annual Summer League
Photo: NBAE/getty images
The NBA has experience hosting games in Las Vegas via the annual Summer League
Photo: NBAE/getty images
The NBA has experience hosting games in Las Vegas via the annual Summer League
Photo: NBAE/getty images

The NBA is "exploring the feasibility of holding its entire postseason in Las Vegas," though the league is "nowhere close to formalizing anything," according to sources cited by Chris Mannix of SI.com. However, a source added "nothing is off the table." Several team and league officials said that "any chance of a traditional postseason is out." A source said that quarantining in one location is the "only solution," and Las Vegas is the "only city the NBA is currently giving any kind of serious consideration." But Mannix wrote "even that faces enormous hurdles." Sending 16 teams to Las Vegas "to play games in hollow arenas isn't ideal," but it "could evolve into a fun, one-time event that would bring the game back and, more importantly, get the television revenue flowing" (SI.com, 4/2).

MAXIMIZE ENTERTAINMENT: In Philadelphia, David Murphy writes the objective for the NBA's postseason "should be three-fold." First is "maximize the television-view audience of every game by maximizing its stakes," and second is "maximize the number of elite-versus elite matchups." Lastly, the NBA "should not feel compelled to re-create what can't be re-created." The objective "should not be to crown a champion that counts itself among those from previous seasons." Rather, it should be to "provide the maximum amount of television entertainment for the viewer, and thus, the maximum amount of value for the rights-holder, while enabling history to regard 2020 as the anomaly that it was" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/3).

10 GAMES, 20 DAYS? In Boston, Gary Washburn writes the best answer for the postseason is "for the NBA to play 10 games over a 20-day period." The league "wishfully would allow the teams to begin practice by July 1, giving each team 10 days to work out before traveling to Las Vegas." The remaining 21 days in July "would consist of playing regular-season games." The league "will have to determine whether teams will be allowed to play each other twice or whether they want to create marquee matchups for television." The NBA has enough networks -- NBA TV, ESPN, TNT, Fox and ABC -- to "carry games and local networks such as NBC Sports Boston can carry the Celtics' remaining schedule as a means of making up for lost games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/3). YAHOO SPORTS takes a look at the NBA's postseason scenarios under the header, "How The NBA Can Salvage 2019-20 If The Coronavirus Pandemic Delays The Season Into July" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/2).

The NBA on Friday night will begin a players-only "NBA 2K" tournament -- to be broadcast on ESPN -- featuring some of the league's most avid gamers, including Nets F Kevin Durant, and the event "could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition," according to Chris Haynes of YAHOO SPORTS (4/1). In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda notes the players will "compete for the next 12 days in video game competitions televised on ESPN and ESPN2, as well as via ESPN and NBA apps and their social-media channels." The players will compete for $100,000 that will be "donated to coronavirus relief efforts." Durant and Heat F Derrick Jones Jr., the 16th seed, will "play first" at 7:30pm ET Friday on ESPN (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/3). In DC, Boren & Bieler noted for Durant, the event will "represent the closest he has come to meaningful basketball competition since he tore his Achilles' tendon" while playing for Warriors in the '19 NBA Finals (WASHINGTON POST, 4/1).

KEEP IT GOING: In Miami, David Wilson noted some teams, including the Suns, have "continued their seasons virtually by having players" like G Devin Booker "play 'NBA 2K' against players from other teams across the league." The Suns "aired one of these games on the radio Friday and the Wizards have been broadcasting games on their local television affiliate." The "NBA 2K" tournament is the NBA's and ESPN's "biggest dive into eSports since every major sport had its season preempted by the pandemic," as the league "searches for a way to salivate fans' thirst for basketball and ESPN looks for alternative content to broadcast with live sports on hold" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/1).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

Under the proposed schedule, the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights would still be contested
Photo: getty images
Under the proposed schedule, the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights would still be contested
Photo: getty images
Under the proposed schedule, the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights would still be contested
Photo: getty images

Golf's governing bodies are "close to unveiling a new schedule that would see at least three major championships" and the Ryder Cup "contested this year," according to Eamon Lynch of GOLFWEEK. The planned joint announcement of a new schedule has been "delayed while the R&A decides if the 149th Open Championship" will be "postponed or canceled entirely." A rescheduled Open would take place at the same venue, Royal St. George’s in England, from Sept. 17-20 -- just "one week before the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin." But if the R&A opts to cancel, that slot on the calendar "could see the U.S. Open played at Winged Foot." Another option "under consideration: holding the U.S. Open later in the year on the West coast." The USGA has had "initial conversations" with two potential venues in California: Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. USGA Chief Brand Officer Craig Annis acknowledged that conversations are "underway with several alternate venues and did not rule out a move west." Sources said that the Masters is "tentatively penciled in for the week of Nov. 9." Lynch reported the PGA Championship will be "scheduled for Aug. 6-9 at Harding Park" in S.F., to be "followed by the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship and then three FedEx Cup playoff events, culminating with the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend." It is "unclear whether the Tour would seek to begin its 2020-21 wraparound season as usual after the Tour Championship" (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/2).

The USGA has postponed the U.S. Women's Open, scheduled for the week of June 4-7, to Dec. 10-13. To account for reduced daylight given the move to December, the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club in Houston will be used in conjunction with the Cypress Creek Course, which was originally slated to host all four rounds of championship play. The Jackrabbit will co-host the first two rounds. In addition, the LPGA announced that four more events on its calendar, in addition to the USWO, have been postponed, though three of those are being rescheduled for later this year (John Lombardo, THE DAILY).

RECENT LPGA SCHEDULE CHANGES
TOURNAMENT
ORIGINAL DATES
NEW '20 DATES
Pelican Women's Championship
May 14-17
Nov. 12-15
Pure Silk Championship
May 21-24
N/A
ShopRite LPGA Classic
May 29-31
July 31-Aug. 2
U.S. Women's Open
June 4-7
Dec. 10-13
Meijer LPGA Classic
June 11-14
TBD
NOTE: The Pure Silk Championship will be held next in '21
Download the
LPGA Schedule Changes

FITTING EVERYTHING IN: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols notes USGA officials are "reviewing how the new dates will impact exemption categories." All qualifying rounds for the USWO "will be held on rescheduled dates and potentially new venues." The USWO "has only been held in May, June and July" since '53 (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/3). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell notes this is the "third women's major of the year to be rescheduled." The ANA Inspiration was "originally scheduled to be played this week but was moved to Sept. 10-13," while the Evian Championship "was moved back two weeks to Aug. 6-9" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/3).

The tennis world was rocked this week with the official cancellation of Wimbledon, and in the latest edition of "SBJ Unpacks - Weathering COVID-19," our Bret McCormick and professional tennis player Noah Rubin discuss the heavy toll the virus has taken on the tennis world, how the Wimbledon cancellation could be a sign of more to come and how Rubin has had to adapt to the pandemic.

On how being ranked 224th in the world and how the suspension of play in tennis is impacting him financially:
Rubin: I’ve been lucky to save a little bit of money here and there. I’ve done well at some of the bigger tournaments throughout my career which definitely helps ... but at the same time it’s only given me a few extra months of cushion before I start really digging into my savings.

On how Wimbledon being canceled effects lower-ranked players like Rubin:
Rubin: That takes away a little bit less than a quarter of my money for the year from that one tournament, so that’s troubling. I already came to terms with the fact that we weren’t going to have Wimbledon far before they canceled it, but it’s all coming out now and the world is seeing it for what it is, and it’s scary. This has to light a fire under people’s butts to say, “There’s some real issues going on.”

On whether he sees any type of financial assistance from the ATP for lower ranked players:
Rubin: I do not think the money is actually there to help players out. I don’t think tennis makes enough money in general to have the reserves needed to help out players in any way, and I think that’s highlighting a lot of issues within tennis.

On concerns some of these canceled tournaments may not return after the COVID-19 crisis subsides:
Rubin: Tennis is built on sponsorships, and without a year of a tournament, it could be they can’t afford it next year. A lot of these tournaments, if they have one sponsor drop out ... that could mean the end of the tournament.


Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said the team's effort to bring over one million N95 masks to the U.S. from China was "probably was the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do." Kraft, appearing on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Thursday, said, "There was a lot of red tape but a lot of people cooperated. We had three governors, we had counsel from China, the Tencent people, our crew who flew probably more hours than they should have but they knew how important it was. It's like doing your job and never taking time off when something's really important. The response we've gotten from America when our plane came back (has been positive because) people are looking for good things" ("Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, 4/2).

RAVING LOCAL REVIEWS: In Boston, Tom Keegan writes it is "time to rewrite the greatest moments in Patriots history." Keegan: "Whatever you think of Kraft's football team or his politics ... you have to love that he's all in on his support of a more pressing fight than any Super Bowl" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/3). Also in Boston, Christopher Gasper writes the Patriots "picked up their biggest acquisition of the offseason Wednesday, and it had nothing to do with football." There is "no better professional sports team in supporting its community than the Patriots." Gasper: "The Patriots and the Krafts aren't socially distancing themselves from their civic responsibility. Bravo." They "brought back something much more tangible and important in these unprecedented times." Even the "staunchest critics of the Krafts and haters of the Patriots have to tip their cap or clap their hands" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/3). The BOSTON HERALD's Keegan writes, "Leave it to someone from the NFL to rise above it all and do the right thing." Coronavirus "does not discriminate based on either political party affiliation or geographic boundaries." In "keeping with that spirit, Kraft isn't discriminating either" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/3). 

GRATITUDE FROM NEW YORK: Kraft purchased an additional 300,000 masks for New York state, and in N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes Kraft "delivered a deed so special in this frightening and uncertain time of the coronavirus crisis that it should never be forgotten." Whenever Kraft's name is mentioned, the response from any Jets or Giants fan "generally is rooted in derision." However, "everyone associated with New York -- Jets fans or otherwise -- should salute" Kraft. A lot has "happened over the years between Kraft and the Jets," and "none of it friendly." Now, though, "everyone is playing for the same team" (N.Y. POST, 4/3).

SIGHT FOR SORE EYES: ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said seeing the masks arrive "helped us feel a little better." Van Pelt said of the Kraft family, "Good on them" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/2). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "Just an incredible gesture from the Kraft family" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 4/2). ABC's Amy Robach said the masks arriving in the U.S. was a “welcome sight” (“GMA,” ABC, 4/3). CBS’ Vladimir Duthiers said the Patriots “have come through for doctors and nurses on the front lines of this pandemic.” CBS’ Tony Dokoupil: “I can’t think of a more appropriate word to be emblazoned on the side of that airplane than ‘Patriots’” (“CBS This Morning,” 4/3). PFT’s Mike Florio said Kraft’s effort is the “kind of thing that we all should look to and say, ‘What can we do we?’ We don't have a 767 we can send anywhere to get masks, but maybe there’s something we can do within our own sphere of influence.” Florio said of Kraft, "He’s got the plane at his disposal, he’s got the money to get it done, but he put it into action and it was more than just signing a check” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 4/3).

Ducks Owners Henry and Susan Samueli announced Thursday that 2,100 part-time employees within all of their companies would be paid for current or future rescheduled, postponed or canceled events through June 30. The decision comprises all events at the Honda Center, nine ice and inline facilities, the AHL’s San Diego Gulls and a local restaurant. Anaheim Arena Management President & CEO Tim Ryan said the family’s "primary concern is the welfare of their employees," and this is "another example of their kindness, generosity and support for the local community” (Mark J. Burns, THE DAILY). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes the Samuelis "set a new standard Thursday for taking care of workers" (L.A. TIMES, 4/3). Meanwhile, in Newark, Brendan Kuty noted the Yankees and NYCFC have set up a $1.4M fund to help Yankee Stadium workers "deal with problems arising from the coronavirus pandemic." Last month, MLB said that all 30 teams would donate at least $1M to out-of-work ballpark employees. A Yankees spokesperson said that the $1.4M is "comprised of that million, plus another $400,000" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/2). Truist Financial Corp. also has awarded a grant of $250,000 to the Atlanta Braves' Relief Fund to support the needs of hourly workers at Truist Park, CoolToday Park and each of the MiLB facilities operated by the Braves (Truist).

The Lions are helping Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based nonprofit that "employs displaced single parents to make coats that convert into sleeping bags, fighting the issue of homelessness on two fronts." When the Lions got in contact with the company, at coach Matt Patricia's request, they were already "deep into plans to produce both surgical masks and hospital gowns, even though they weren't sure how they were going to fund the crisis-driven pivot." With a "combination of team and personal resources," Patricia "committed to helping get things off the ground." The production of medical supplies is "intended to help at the local level, at least at the start." From there, the company will "reassess production and demand" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/3).

PERFECT PARTNERSHIP: When Rays officials "discussed how best to help community efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, they made a pretty easy decision on where to start, committing $250,000" to Feeding Tampa Bay, a group that "provides meals and food service across 10 counties." The club is "making a $100,000 donation and will offer up to another $150,000 in matching funds for an online virtual food drive." In effect, the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund are "donating 1 million meals, and will match up to 1.5 million more, for a potential overall contribution of 4 million meals" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/3). 

NFL STARS: Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey has "started '22 and You,' a program committed to raising money for healthcare workers in the Carolinas." The "goal of the fund is to support front-line medical workers, including physicians, nurses and other hospital staff battling the pandemic." Lowe’s and Bose have "already contributed to the fund and McCaffrey matched their support" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/3)....Browns WR Jarvis Landry "donated $15,000 to provide hygiene products to East Cleveland City School District students and their families" (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/2)....Vikings WR Adam Thielen's Thielen Foundation has "committed an additional $75,000 to Minnesota COVID-19 relief efforts and announced plans to help raise more money through an April 9 radiothon." The organization will "donate $75,000 to Salvation Army North, M Health Fairview and MN Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus." Last month, the foundation "gave $25,000 to Second Harvest Heartland" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/3).

MLB AND NBA: Phillies RF Bryce Harper and his wife, Kayla, "donated $500,000 on Thursday toward coronavirus relief in Las Vegas and Philadelphia" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/3)....Cubs 2B Jason Kipnis set up an account with video-sharing site Cameo and will "donate portions of the proceeds to coronavirus relief and medical workers" (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 4/2)....Rockets F P.J. Tucker will release a "new limited-edition collection of clothing items next week to help promote awareness of coronavirus safety measures and raise funds for the Houston Food Bank and local businesses and vendors" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/3)....Trail Blazers G and Canton, Ohio, native CJ McCollum is "donating $170,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts," with $100,000 of that going to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/3). 

MORE ORGANIZATIONAL AID: Islanders players "made a financial commitment to help health care workers treating coronavirus patients by pooling funds to donate about 3,500 N95 masks to Northwell Health" (NEWSDAY, 4/3)....The Marlins Foundation on Thursday announced it is "launching the Home Plate Meals Relief Fund, which in partnership with Feeding South Florida will 'launch a weekly drive-thru food distribution throughout the month of April.'" A "total of $150,000 has been earmarked so far for the food drive" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/3).