Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 181

Coronavirus and Sports

49ers fans could be faced with a long wait before they see another game at Levi's Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
49ers fans could be faced with a long wait before they see another game at Levi's Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
49ers fans could be faced with a long wait before they see another game at Levi's Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fans wanting to attend a 49ers game or any other sporting event in Santa Clara County "could be wanting until late November, if not later," according to Jason Green of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. That was the message Santa Clara County Executive Officer Dr. Jeff Smith "delivered to the Board of Supervisors during a discussion Tuesday." Smith said, "I don't expect that we'll have any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we'll be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving." He added, "This is not going to be something that is easy to do." Green notes Santa Clara County, along with the rest of California, "appears to be slowing the spread of COVID-19, but life likely won't return to normal without a substantial increase in testing." In addition to the 49ers and the Sharks, the county is home to the Earthquakes, the Single-A California League San Jose Giants and three major universities -- Stanford, Santa Clara Univ. and San Jose State (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 4/9).

WORDS CARRY MEANING: In S.F., Ann Killion writes Smith's words are "significant" because they come from the county that has "earned national, well-deserved praise for its aggressive, proactive steps to contain the coronavirus outbreak." Because there is no national policy, decision-making has been "left up to municipalities, which is how Santa Clara County became a leader in this fight." But a league like the NFL "must have a unified policy" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote Smith's words and power represent a "significant challenge for professional sports to return -- the NFL in particular." While the NBA, NHL and MLB are "at least considering trying to move their entire league to a single site, city or region," the NFL has had "no such concept leak, probably because it would appear unworkable." The NFL "may be able to stage a season, just not that way." It is "one less option it has to consider," as football "doesn't seem to work for the single-site dream" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/8).

NOT LOOKING GOOD: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the sports world "needs to go back to work, and with every day, it's understandable desperation is showing." Yet with every day, its "solutions for a return sound sillier, and its false hope does more damage." There is a "realistic chance the sports world will be benched" until '21. With a vaccine at least "several months away, the clock has seemingly run out on the current and upcoming seasons of this country's major sports." Plaschke: "It's never over until it's over, but this feels pretty much over" (L.A. TIMES, 4/9).

Jeter said he wants to focus on keeping the community healthy before getting back to baseball
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jeter said he wants to focus on keeping the community healthy before getting back to baseball
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jeter said he wants to focus on keeping the community healthy before getting back to baseball
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter "doesn't want to put a definite amount of time for how long players would need to get back up to speed to play" whenever and however MLB returns post-pandemic, according to Jordan McPherson of the MIAMI HERALD. Jeter said, "Most importantly we need to make sure our community is safe and we all get through this. Then you can concern yourself about getting back on the field and baseball. I don't know the answer to that question. No one knows the answer to that question." McPherson notes business for the Marlins is "going on as usual, albeit not at a ballpark or in face-to-face meetings that are usually the norm at this time" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/9).

RAZING ARIZONA: In Chicago, Mark Gonzales addresses the reported Arizona plan, and asks, "Why not wait a little longer to see if a season can be salvaged and not limited to Arizona?" Health conditions permitting, an 85- to 100-game schedule "could start after the All-Star Game, currently scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium, and stretch into late October" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/9). In Detroit, Chris McCosky writes he loves that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his people are "thinking outside the box, trying to find a way to salvage a baseball season," because that is "what we all want -- some diversion, something to feel good about, something to remind of us of normalcy." But this, "moving the entire league and playing the season in the desert, isn’t it." There are "just too many potholes, obvious ones, seemingly" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/9). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes MLB "should disavow" the Arizona plan "entirely and end the debate." People can all be "confident that when push comes to shove," the owners and the MLBPA will "not be able to agree on a way to further prorate the already prorated player salaries to compensate for the lack of gate receipts" (BALTIMORE SUN, 4/9).

PLAY BALL? In Miami, Greg Cote writes there is "no question resuming baseball in May or soon would be a good idea for the club owners," as games, even in empty ballparks, "mean television revenue, which means profits." There also is "little question it would be a good idea for fans starving to watch live sports." Cote: "But is it a good idea for the health and well-being of the hundreds of ballplayers and their families?" It is "hard to envision" the union "loving this idea." Cote wonders, "Beyond that, is it morally right to be shouting 'Play ball!' and playing ghost games in the middle of a pandemic?" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/9). But USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes MLB and its players "must move forward with hypotheticals." An entire season and nearly $11B of industry revenue is "at stake, and the Arizona option, or something like it, may, weeks from now, remain on the table" (USA TODAY, 4/9).

WILL THEY COME? In Chicago, Scot Gregor notes the 8,000-seat ballpark meant to host the MLB Field of Dreams Game between the White Sox and Yankees is "still being built." MLB has the "final say on the game's status," scheduled for Aug. 13 in Dyersville, Iowa. Tickets have "not yet gone on sale," but MLB will "soon be making an announcement on how to get them if the game is played" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 4/9).

White has said that the UFC will make sure everyone's safe before, during and after the fights
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
White has said that the UFC will make sure everyone's safe before, during and after the fights
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
White has said that the UFC will make sure everyone's safe before, during and after the fights
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

UFC President Dana White insists that UFC 249 now is set to take place without fans "at a casino on sovereign tribal land in Central California," but parent company Endeavor is "taking a risk if the event goes ahead," according to Andrew Ross Sorkin of the N.Y. TIMES. Some fighters "have pulled out, and Endeavor's other businesses -- namely, its talent agencies -- may suffer a reputational hit if part of the company is seen as flouting stay-at-home orders." The "loss of sports programming because of pandemic lockdowns has hit Endeavor hard, with analysts fretting about the company paying down its debt load" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9).

HOW CAN SAFETY BE PROMISED? In N.Y., Kevin Draper writes it is "unclear how White and the UFC could ensure the safety" around the event. The closest major hospital to Tachi Palace Casino Resort, located about 30 miles outside Fresno, is a 40-minute drive away, and a hospital spokesperson said that they have "not heard a word" from UFC. The Native American tribe that is providing the site "has previously sought help with fights from California state referees, judges and other officials, but the UFC is on its own now as it evades regulators who have told it not to proceed." Meanwhile, some legal experts "believe that county and state officials could step in" even though the casino is on sovereign land (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9). ESPN.com's Okamoto & Raimondi cited sources as saying that fighters and corner people "have been told they will be tested for COVID-19 on site." Sources added that the UFC also is "arranging for COVID-19 tests to be sent to the homes of fighters and corner people in advance of the card" (ESPN.com, 4/8). 

HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD: In N.Y., George Willis wondered if White is "mad or taking a stand?" The incentive for the UFC to "stage the event is massive." It "would have the undivided attention of a sporting (and betting) public starved for live entertainment." ESPN+ "will live stream the pay-per-view card." There is "little question the UFC can pull this off," but with a pandemic going on, the MMA outfit "had better know" what it is doing. Willis: "Lives depend on it" (N.Y. POST, 4/9). CBS' Jim Rome said, “The one guy that I do not bet against is Dana White. I’ve seen Dana get stuff done. More than anybody, I know Dana gets stuff done” (“The Jim Rome Show,” CBS Sports Radio, 4/8).

IS THIS THE BEST LOOK? Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, whose cards are showcased on DAZN, said that White's plans are in "bad taste." Hearn said, "It's unbelievable. I'd like to think that in boxing, there's no one more roll your sleeves up and get on with it than me. But even I wouldn't consider staging an event right now. I'm not even thinking about options, not even on the radar." He added, "This is stubbornness. These are many of the things that make him successful but at some point you have to sit back and say 'white flag.' I'm quite surprised ESPN are going ahead with this, obviously they want ratings and money" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 4/8).

Fans could be faced with widespread testing in order to attend Sounders games
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fans could be faced with widespread testing in order to attend Sounders games
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fans could be faced with widespread testing in order to attend Sounders games
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer said that "all ideas are being considered by MLS owners in order to resume play" this season, and one potential option is "testing everyone prior to entering a stadium to watch a game or match," according to Jayda Evans of the SEATTLE TIMES. Hanauer said, "That's not too crazy to imagine. There's equipment and you have to be able to run people through fast enough. But we as a society, we're going to have to be open to things like that." Evans notes the original target return date was May 10 with a "possible championship in December, but that will surely be pushed back." The positive is that MLS "isn't close to the point where it needs to outright cancel" the season "in order to plan for next year." Hanauer said that league owners are "being flexible in finding solutions to salvage pieces of its 25th season." But Hanauer said, "Until we have significant amounts of fast testing that is not bypassing those people who really need the fast testing, I don't see a path to having sport. With that said, 90 days ago it took five days to get a test result. Now we have the technology to do it in five minutes. Who knows, it could be 30 seconds in another 60 days" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/9).

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT: PRO SOCCER USA's Julia Poe noted NWSL Orlando Pride Exec VP Amanda Duffy "remains confident the league will be able to reschedule every game" of the '20 season. She said, "There's nothing that we have that would indicate it'll be a season any different than what we had expected other than start dates." Duffy said that "discussions are ongoing" between NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird and the BOD. She "reiterated a tentative timeline that Baird previously set out for a league restart, which would see players 'on the field in some capacity' by late May and matches resuming in late June." Duffy added that leaders throughout the league "will prioritize health and safety of everyone involved in matches while planning a return to the pitch" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 4/8).

DC United has "furloughed a 'handful' of employees as part of belt-tightening amid MLS's shutdown," according to sources cited by Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. Sources said that the number of employees affected was "around six." The employees will "continue to receive health coverage and benefits, and United plans to bring them back." In addition, several members of the soccer operations staff, including manager Ben Olsen and GM & VP/Soccer Operations Dave Kasper, "agreed to defer a portion of their salaries until the economic climate improves." Sources added that "high-ranking members of the front office are accepting pay cuts, not deferments." One club employee said, "Some revenue is going away, and it's not coming back any time soon. This is going to go into 2021." Meanwhile, the club said that it is "donating about $50,000 in food and cash to local nonprofit organizations feeding needy families, including Martha's Table" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/9). Real Salt Lake earlier this week became the first MLS club to make staffing changes due to coronavirus (THE DAILY).

CAA President Richard Lovett is among the execs who won't take a salary the rest of the year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
CAA President Richard Lovett is among the execs who won't take a salary the rest of the year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
CAA President Richard Lovett is among the execs who won't take a salary the rest of the year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

CAA has told staff there will be "companywide paycuts up to 50%, on a progressive scale," but the agency will see "no layoffs," according to Mike Fleming Jr. of DEADLINE.com. CAA President Richard Lovett, Managing Dir & co-Chair Bryan Lourd and Managing Partner & co-Chair Kevin Huvane "will take no salary for the year." The agency's top earners "will be subjected to the high end of the percentage pay cut scale." It was "expected that the agency would have to do something" to account for loss of revenue due to the pandemic. The "hope at CAA and other agencies is to restore status quo as quickly as possible, when the world re-opens and revenue streams begin to flow again" (DEADLINE.com, 4/8). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Rebecca Sun noted CAA's move "follows similar steps taken at other agencies." Various paycuts have been "implemented at Endeavor, Verve, APA, UTA and Paradigm, with the heads of Endeavor, UTA and Paradigm forgoing the remainder" of their '20 salaries entirely (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/8).

A second worker at Allegiant Stadium has tested positive for coronavirus, but Moretenson-McCarthy, the joint venture building the venue, said work "continues in other areas of the project that remain unaffected," according to Mick Akers of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The first confirmed new coronavirus case was reported by stadium officials last month, after which Mortenson-McCarthy "implemented stringent cleaning protocols on the project consistent" with CDC guidelines. Stadium officials are working with customers and trade partners to "adjust workflows as necessary" and are "utilizing teleconferencing where applicable" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/9).

WORK CONTINUES AT SOFI: In L.A., Nathan Fenno notes a second construction worker at the SoFi Stadium development in Inglewood "has tested positive" for coronavirus. But Turner-AECOM Hunt, the joint venture overseeing the project, in an email to workers wrote the project "REMAINS OPEN TO WORK WITHOUT RESTRICTION" because the individual had "not at any time entered the building or used any of its common areas." Starting last night, all employees on the project "will have their temperature taken with noncontact thermometers at six access points to the site" (L.A. TIMES, 4/9).

The All-England Club reportedly will receive $141M from its pandemic insurance policy after canceling this year's Wimbledon, showing some "incredible foresight" by the club, according to Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman. The club pays $2M annually for the pandemic policy. Tennis Channel's Jim Courier said that showed "wonderful foresight" by the All-England Club, the latest example that it has been a "visionary for quite a long time." Tennis Channel's Chanda Rubin said, "That was one of the best decisions they could have made." Tennis Channel's Nicolas Pereira said of the insurance money, "Hopefully that will funnel down to some of the players and some of the people that really need it." Pereira said because tennis competes around the world with players from many countries, it is "probably going to be one of the last sports to get a start after all of this is over. Certainly, all of the money, all the proceeds, all the help will be very welcomed" (“Tennis Channel Live,” Tennis Channel, 4/8). CBSSPORTS.com's Gabriel Fernandez noted refunds "for ticket holders and those with television rights will be covered" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/8).

Burton Snowboards is "donating 500,000 respirator masks to hospitals across the Northeast, harnessing the company's worldwide footprint to help put a dent in the country's lagging stockpile." The first 48,000 masks have been "delivered and are earmarked for hospitals across Vermont and for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire." The rest are "scheduled to arrive within the next two weeks and will be distributed along the East Coast; at least half will go to particularly hard-hit areas of New York and Boston." Company CEO Donna Burton Carpenter said that she is "using her own funds for the masks" (AP, 4/8). Meanwhile, CCM Hockey is teaming up the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin and Penguins' Sidney Crosby to donate 500,000 surgical masks to hospital workers in Canada (CCM).

TEAM DONATIONS: The NFL Cardinals and State Farm are donating over 1 million meals that will be distributed to five non-profit organizations throughout the Phoenix area (Cardinals)....The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation is "donating school supplies filling 500 backpacks -- 200 each to State Police barracks in Allegheny and Somerset counties and 100 to ACH Clear Pathways in the Hill District" (TRIBLIVE.com, 4/8). 

INDIVIDUAL INITIATIVES: Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen will "pay for 750,000 meals" in a donation to Feeding Tampa Bay (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/9)....TCU football coach Gary Patterson and his wife, Kelsey, "gifted $50,000 to support the 'Frog Family Crisis Fund'" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/9)....Wizards G Bradley Beal "donated $100,000 to St. Louis-area food banks" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/9)....The Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation is "making a $100,000 donation to Baptist Health to use for the purchase of PPEs for doctors and nurses" (FLORIDA TIMES UNION, 4/9)....Lightning Better Halves, a group of Lightning players’ wives and girlfriends, "donated food to the staff at Tampa General Hospital, in partnership with LS Organics." They "brought 100 meals and 75 wellness juice shots from the Tampa meal service" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/9).

GIVING BACK: The NFL Player Care Foundation yesterday announced a COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund in which NFL alumni may be eligible for $2,000 emergency grants as early as next week. The fund will assist eligible alumni who have experienced a coronavirus-related financial setback such as loss of employment income or COVID-19 medical expenses (NFL Player Care Foundation)....Fidelity Sports Group and Dick’s Sporting Goods worked together to coordinate a donation of 200 Frogg Togg suits to healthcare workers in Huntsville, Ala., after learning the raingear was high enough quality to protect doctors and nurses in the fight against COVID-19 (Fidelity).

With all of the uncertainty and difficult questions for the sports industry created by the coronavirus pandemic, SBJ/SBD and YouGov have collaborated on a survey to gauge some of the ways this global crisis has affected your business operations and to get your opinion on the return of live sporting events. We are hoping that you will complete this brief survey about these topics. We anticipate that this anonymous survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete and we will share the results with you when we are done. We are all in this together and we hope that this inside-the-industry study will be valuable for each of us.

Click here to take the survey.