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Volume 26 No. 177

Coronavirus and Sports

The race, which was held without fans, had the feel of the first stirrings from within the sports mainstream
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The race, which was held without fans, had the feel of the first stirrings from within the sports mainstream
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The race, which was held without fans, had the feel of the first stirrings from within the sports mainstream
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NASCAR Exec VP Steve O’Donnell believes things went “very smoothly in NASCAR’s return to racing” yesterday at Darlington Raceway, as there were “no major hiccups,” according to Justin Driggers of the FLORENCE NEWS. O’Donnell said, “Things actually went smoother than we could have expected -- getting all the teams in and inspection went well. All in all, really good day for the sport -- excited to be back. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it on television” (FLORENCE NEWS, 5/18). In Charlotte, Alex Andrejev reports NASCAR officials are planning to meet today “to discuss the safety procedures.” O’Donnell said that NASCAR “did not need to reprimand any of the roughly 900 individuals at the track for not wearing a mask as required.” He added that he was unaware if “anyone had tested positive for the virus while undergoing their pre-race health inspections, which included a questionnaire sent to individuals’ mobile devices and a temperature check before entering the raceway.” However he said the doctor at check-in had “cleared everybody and was 100% confident we were in a good place to go racing” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/18).

SAFETY HAD TO COME FIRST: In Atlanta, Steve Hummer writes yesterday's race had the "feel of the first stirrings from within the sports mainstream." NASCAR was doing "all it could to keep all parties safe and as far away from each other as possible." Hummer: "Being the first back came with considerable pressure to prove that competition and the coronavirus could co-exist. If they failed, it could be a very quiet summer" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/18). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the race “served as a symbol that things can still go right.” If it had “gone sideways -- and it could have in any number of ways related to COVID-19 -- it would have been a body blow for the idea of a return to sports in general” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/18).

FIRST STEP: The AP's Jenna Fryer notes the industry "had to be extremely careful because to even get to the Coca-Cola 600 next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR had to get it right at Darlington" (AP, 5/18). In Cincinnati, Darius Goodwin writes having no fans at the track “gave the broadcast an eerie look.” It made moments “where you see drivers make a move that was spectacular and worked almost sound like crickets.” Goodwin: “What really stood out was the lack of fans around the crews looking to get the views of pitstops up close. That helped remind long-time viewers of the sport to remember we’re not out of the woods yet” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/18). NBCSPORTS.com's Dustin Long wrote the lack of fans "was noticeable in the background of TV shots," where the "color of the cars contrasted with the gray of many of the track’s empty seats" (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/17).

NICE JOB, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: In Colorado Springs, Kate Shefte writes the race “looked about as well done as it could have been under the present circumstances.” NASCAR deserves credit “for having pulled off a major sporting event, and credit for figuring it out first” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE,  5/18). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis writes, "This was an easing back into the water" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 5/18).

IT CAN BE DONE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee noted the race "drew the eyes of other major sports looking for a path back to the field." While NASCAR is a "different beast" than stick-and-ball sports, the "simple logistics of getting people into, around and out of an event facility remain the same." Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said, "It can be done. You’ve got to be organized. You’ve got to put in a lot of effort and a lot of time. You’ve got to over communicate to your team. You have to plan for everything. But if you have a solid plan, it can work” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/17).

Players were instructed to keep celebrations to themselves to maintain social distancing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players were instructed to keep celebrations to themselves to maintain social distancing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players were instructed to keep celebrations to themselves to maintain social distancing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Germany's Bundesliga "resumed in unprecedented conditions" on Saturday, with Dortmund beating Schalke 4-0 in the "first Ruhr derby to be played in an empty stadium," according to Ciaran Fahey of the AP. Calls and shouts from coaching staff and players, plus the "thud of the sanitized ball being kicked, reverberated around the mainly deserted stands." Players were "warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging with the games keenly watched by the rest of the soccer world hoping to restart their own leagues." Team staff and players who did not start "wore masks," and substitutes "took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the field, while balls and seats were disinfected." Pre-game TV interviews "were conducted with long poles holding microphones and participants keeping their distance" (AP, 5/16). The AP's James Ellingworth wrote in Dortmund, it was "hard to tell that the city’s beloved team was playing at all." Outside the stadium "there was near silence." The club's Signal Iduna Park has an 81,000 capacity, but league rules "permit just 213 people, including players, to be inside for the game, none of them supporters" (AP, 5/16). 

GOOD AND BAD: ESPN.com's Stephan Uersfeld noted Hertha Berlin players "did not observe the social-distancing instructions after each of their three goals, instead celebrating with a team embrace and other forms of physical contact." But "despite their disregard for protocol," the German Football League confirmed that the players will "escape without sanctions" (ESPN.com, 4/16). Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said that the league "remains on 'parole.'" But ESPN.com's Hamilton & Uersfeld wrote this weekend "was a hugely promising first step back as football negotiates its new reality" (ESPN.com, 4/16). REUTERS noted fans across the country "followed police orders to stay away from the stadiums" (REUTERS, 5/16). 

A STAGE TO THEMSELVES: YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote the Bundesliga’s popularity "still lags far behind" England’s EPL and Spain’s LaLiga, and "perhaps even" Italy’s Serie A. But now, there is a "window when the Bundesliga is entirely without competition, when it has the spotlight of a fiercely competitive global soccer landscape to itself." Depending on "how long the layoff lasts elsewhere, there is a chance to capitalize." However, Saturday's Dortmund-Schalke match "felt less like a crackling derby than a leisurely preseason scrimmage" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/16). In N.Y., Rory Smith wrote by returning first, the Bundesliga "turned a problem into an opportunity." The league has, "for many years, sought to end the primacy" of the EPL in soccer’s global landscape. For a few weekends, the "eyes of the world will be on Germany" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).

The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Health-and-safety protocols in MLB's proposed Operations Manual for '20 include "processing upward of 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, overhauling stadiums and in-game settings to encourage social distancing, and rigorous rules intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19," according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. The manual is a "highly detailed road map that would require a staggering amount of effort to complete." Multiple officials who have seen it expressed "skepticism about the ability to implement it, especially in a short time frame" (ESPN.com, 5/16). The AP's Ronald Blum reported under the protocols, showers at ballparks are "discouraged" and players could possibly arrive "in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers." In addition, the traditional exchange of lineup cards "would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls." A copy was "sent to teams Friday." Clubs will be "allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still to be negotiated." Protocols also include "details on testing for team staff, who are divided into three tiers." Managers and coaches "must wear masks while in the dugouts," while the entire traveling party -- including players -- "must wear personal protective equipment while on buses and flights." Restaurants are "off limits on the road, including the ones in hotels, as are hotel fitness centers" (AP, 5/17). In N.Y., Sherman & Davidoff reported under the header, "Inside MLB’s In-Depth Plan To Deal With Coronavirus Concerns" (N.Y. POST, 5/17).

HARD TO HANDLE: The POST's Joel Sherman wrote the document is an "exhaustive effort." And while it is "impressive," it also is "depressive." Any reader of the document will be "reminded of just how many needles will have to be thread in how many places to not just restart the game, but keep it going for several months to resolution." That is "why so much of this is going to come down to just how badly do we want to play" (N.Y. POST, 5/17). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote, "The takeaway: this isn’t going to be easy, but at least they’ve done their homework." More Mastrodonato: "This booklet is thorough. So thorough, in fact, some of these requests will be difficult to enforce" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/17). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote to "get ready," because if an MLB season is played this summer, it will "look like nothing we’ve ever seen in the sport’s history." Nightengale: "It is daunting. Perhaps impractical to fully regulate. But then again, maybe completely necessary if there is going to be Major League Baseball this summer." Cardinals P Andrew Miller called the manual "very thorough," but added there is "a lot of responsibility put on players and staff to do their part to avoid the virus" (USA TODAY, 5/17).

MASSIVE UNDERTAKING: On Long Island, David Lennon writes the "massive undertaking" to propose health-and-safety guidelines for a return was "merely Step 1." Not only does the MLBPA have to "sign off on these unprecedented guidelines, but everyone will have to adhere to them if baseball is going to happen this summer," and "not just occasionally." One "costly deviation from the protocols at any of those levels could blow up the entire season" (NEWSDAY, 5/18). ESPN.com's Passan wrote what is "most striking" about MLB's proposal is the "immensity of it all, the right-there-on-paper, brass-tacks accounting of what it looks like to bring back a professional sport in the middle of a global pandemic." It is a "logistical clamber, a moonshot requiring the buy-in of parties with multivariate endgames" (ESPN.com, 5/17).

HEALTH MATTERS: In Minneapolis, Phil Miller writes the blueprint "makes clear that baseball in these unprecedented conditions will look strange and may feel foreign, but also that MLB believes that games can be played without spreading the virus" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/18). In DC, Barry Svrluga reported the document "provides carefully detailed plans that consider nearly every ¬≠interaction in the sport" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17). The STAR TRIBUNE's Miller writes under the header, "Safety And Salaries Are Major League Baseball's Most Difficult Issues" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/18). In St. Louis, Ben Frederickson writes players are "understandably hesitant to agree to any plan without clear details on the testing and quarantining process that will keep players as safe as possible," and this "should have been the focus all along" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/18). In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm wrote the "much bigger threat to the prospect of an upcoming baseball season can still be found in health and safety." The league and MLBPA can "argue about finances all they want," but before there is "any talk about money everyone must be convinced it’s even possible to play" (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).

SITTING OUT: THE ATHLETIC's Jayson Stark wondered what if MLB starts up the season and every club is "missing some key player -- or six?" Stark: "What would happen if a player chooses not to play? Would he still get paid? Would he still get a year of service time?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/15). In Boston, Peter Abraham wrote, "Don’t be surprised if some players elect to sit out the season rather than expose themselves -- and their families -- to the virus." The MLBPA "would be wise to make its best deal as quickly as possible" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/17). 

MLB and the players' union are in negotiations over a return to play, and if the league "persists with its revenue-sharing idea, it stands to reason that the players would hold firm against it," as guaranteed salaries in a free market are the "underpinnings of their union," according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES. Owners "do not give unexpected profits to players, the thinking goes, so why should players give back money to help owners cover unexpected losses?" If the sides "satisfy the health question but kill the season over money, the long-term impact could be catastrophic" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16). SI.com's Matt Loede wrote the players "deserve the deal they were presented and agreed to in March," and the owners "need to come to that conclusion sooner than later." If the '20 season "does not get played over money, it'll be on the hands of the owners, who over two months had a deal in place to play -- only to let greed get in the way" (SI.com, 5/15).

DON'T DO IT FOR THE MONEY: In Seattle, Matt Calkins wrote if players "don’t want to play because they fear for their health ... that’s fine." But what players should not do is "use this pandemic as a bargaining chip for more cash." If "financial greed somehow prevents America’s pastime from coming back into our lives, it will be a near irreversible blunder" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/17). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote the MLBPA "hasn’t done a great job handling the PR side of this from the get-go," when both Exec Dir Tony Clark and agent Scott Boras "blasted away publicly at the revenue-sharing idea." In the court of public opinion, based on the past week, the union "took a big L." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "immediately swiped the high ground" from the MLBPA, whose "disjointed response -- and flat-out betrayal by former card-carrying members -- has them scrambling to present their own legitimate concerns." The union had a "clear path to make this all about the health-and-safety challenges of trying to play during a pandemic." Yet that has taken a "backseat to salaries and contracts" (NEWSDAY, 5/17). In Philadelphia, Bob Brookover wrote the problem for Rays P Blake Snell and his supporters is that they "have made this a financial fight rather than a health and welfare issue" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/16).

A PLEA FROM A-ROD: Alex Rodriguez "implored players on Friday to cave into the owners’ demands and accept a 50 percent split of the revenue MLB earns." He said, "This is like beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. I just urge the players and owners to think collectively. If there’s $100 in the pie, like the NBA, players take $50, owners take $50. And we give it to the fans. We thank the fans of baseball" (N.Y. POST, 5/17).

In an initial step toward negotiating the thorny issue of player compensation, MLB informed the union that paying players' prorated salaries over the course of a shortened 82-game season would result in an average loss of $640,000 for each game, according to a 12-page document obtained by SBJ. The prospect of paying players' prorated salaries, a compensation structure that the union maintains was agreed upon in March, would yield what a source familiar with owners' thinking called a "devastating" economic scenario for the sport. The document, titled "Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance" and dated May 12, details how the proposed prorated salary structure would result in players taking nearly 90% of revenue. A source familiar with teams' thinking told SBJ: "It is not economically feasible to start the season playing without fans while paying players their full prorated salaries because the economic losses would be staggering, and clubs would not have enough revenue to keep non-players employed. There is also the risk that a postseason cannot be played because of a second wave, depriving clubs of revenue to support player salaries. That was the clubs' position in March and it remains their position today."

GRIM PICTURE: Details in the document, which were first reported by the AP, help paint a grim economic picture of a baseball season played without fans. Several baseball sources familiar with owner-level thinking, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss specifics, said the season would be in jeopardy if the union does not budge from its stance of insisting on prorated salaries. One source said: "The easiest way to think of it is, at a minimum MLB is losing nearly $3 billion this year under any scenario, and the losses just go up from there."

The Yankees would stand to lose the most money among MLB teams
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Yankees would stand to lose the most money among MLB teams
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Yankees would stand to lose the most money among MLB teams
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ECONOMICS 101: If player salaries are prorated for an 82-game regular season, the Yankees would have $312M in local losses when calculating their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The Yankees' figure includes about $100M toward bonds that financed new Yankee Stadium, money that already has been paid for '20. The Dodgers were second with $232M in local losses, followed by the Mets at $214M, Cubs at $199M and Red Sox at $188M. The Tigers would have the lowest negative EBITDA -- an accounting measure used to assess profitability -- at $84M. Figures exclude distribution from the central office, which projects to collect $1.34B in media revenue. Most of MLB's revenue this season is expected to come from an expanded postseason, which would include 14 teams instead of 10. But several baseball sources concede that even by choosing not to play the postseason later in the fall (it is still expected to be played in October), there is no guarantee that it will not need to be canceled or cut short because of government restrictions based on a potential second wave of COVID-19. Without the postseason revenue, a baseball source familiar with the league-wide economic structure said, "We're all in a really bad situation."

REVENUE'S IMPACT: National media revenue is dependent on MLB's ability to stage a postseason and provide national broadcasters with agreed-upon games during the abbreviated regular season. For the regular season, that totals $553M in media money. For the postseason, it is $787M. The document details the breakdown among media partners for the postseason: $370M from Fox; $310M from Turner; $27M from ESPN; $30M from MLB Network and $50M from international and other. RSNs are only contractually obligated to pay rights fees for each game that is delivered after clubs fail to deliver the minimum number of games (between 140 and 150). Revenue from RSNs drops in proportion to the lost games, from $2.3B to $1.2B and an average of $980,000 per game for both teams, according to the document. Club rights fees will be reduced further because MLB must pull games from clubs to satisfy the requirements of ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" and Fox contracts. Clubs do not receive additional rights fees if ratings are higher than expected or if advertising income for the RSN is higher than expected.

NEGOTIATING TACTICS: According to the document, MLB's '19 revenue was 39% local gate and other in-park sources, followed by 25% central revenue, 22% local media, 11% sponsorship and 4% other. Baseball sources are optimistic but cannot guarantee that small groups of fans will be permitted to return to some ballparks later in the '20 season. Clubs project to increase their debt from $5.2B last year to $7.3B in '20. MLB's central office increased debt by $550M to support clubs and is seeking $650M more credit. After owners voted Monday to propose a 50-50 split with players of revenue, MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark told The Athletic that the concept was a non-starter because the union equates revenue sharing with a salary cap. Owners were surprised by Clark's characterization, according to a source, who described the two sides as "ships passing in the night." The source added that owners are trying to "find a way, a construct that is fair to negotiate rather than going in and saying, 'Look, we don't have the revenue and losses are through the roof so players have to take less.'" The revenue-sharing concept was aimed to characterize it in a "positive way," being business partners and sharing revenue. The union has requested a myriad of documents pertaining to finances from MLB.

STAYING STEADFAST: Clark has been steadfast that negotiations regarding player compensation are complete. The union has said that the two sides made an agreement in late March regarding return-to-play stipulations, agreeing that player salaries would be prorated based on the number of games played in '20. Owners feel that the issue is subject to re-negotiating because the calculus has now changed since fans will not be permitted to attend games at least initially. "The traditional MLB team model, we're not going to have it for some period of time because we won't have fans in the stands," one club executive told SBJ. "There obviously has to be compromises made by everybody in that situation -- the teams and the players. We all have to share the collective pain."

MIDDLE GROUND? Several baseball sources said the possibility of deferring some payment to players (with interest) is not a feasible middle-ground solution between owners as players because owners do not view the economic crisis as a one-year issue. They said there remains great uncertainty over what operations for 2021 will look like and a salary deferment plan merely takes the economic issues from this year and moves them to next year and beyond. "Deferrals just don't get you anywhere," a source said. "Owners just don't have the revenue."

Progress was made this weekend "on a 24-team format for return to play" for the NHL, though there "remains work to be done, and nobody involved is ready to say 100 percent where this is headed," according to sources cited by Pierre LeBrun of THE ATHLETIC. The format "doesn’t go straight to the playoffs but involves games in some form before-hand," something the players "would have pushed for." While things "may yet change again," there is a "clear sense that both sides are closer on what a season resumption may look like." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has a regularly scheduled call with the BOG this afternoon, but it is unclear whether he will have a "tentative return to play format to share," as there may be "further work needed on it from the Return to Play committee the rest of the week" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/17). In N.Y., Larry Brooks was critical of people speculating that a 24-team postseason "might be lacking in the integrity department." Brooks wrote, "If the NHL comes back this summer, it will need to make a splash beyond the curiosity factor. It will need the New York, Chicago and Montreal markets. It will need to energize as wide a swatch of the fan base as possible" (N.Y. POST, 5/17). 

Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi (c) believes it is likely the NHL will return to play soon
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi (c) believes it is likely the NHL will return to play soon
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi (c) believes it is likely the NHL will return to play soon
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

HOPEFUL OF A RETURN: Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi said that hockey "will return this summer if COVID-19 testing is available to everyone in the picture." He said of returning to action soon, "There's a very high likelihood. ... The league is determined to complete the season, and I would concur that not finishing the season is not on [Bettman's] mind at all. I expect we will play the season. I think we're down to logistics. I keep saying it, people that talk to me are tired of hearing it, but it really comes down to being able to test -- effectively test on a timely basis." In Denver, Mike Chambers noted Bettman "might be gaining fans with his 'Pollyanna'-type optimism about restarting the 2019-20 season." However, at the same time, Bettman "could just be playing politics -- assuring the public he has considered all avenues of a return while knowing there is little or no chance" (DENVER POST, 5/16).

LEAGUE SHOWING ITS TRUE COLORS: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the fact that playing beyond Canada Day -- July 1 -- is "something Bettman and his owners are seriously considering just shows how desperate they are getting to find a way to 'complete' the 2019-20 campaign, particularly in a way that satisfies their broadcast partners." The NHL "loves to talk about tradition when it fits their commercial purposes, but the status of what was once beloved as a winter game was altered long ago by growth into southern climes and now stands to be further twisted by holding the most important games in deep summer." Cox: "Be assured that whatever the league is planning, it is most definitely not primarily in the interest of hockey fans" (TORONTO STAR, 5/18).

NOT A FAN OF THE PLAN: Capitals D Radko Gudas cited players' health concerns and said that the NHL "should cancel the rest of its season." Gudas said, "It's a bit sad they are willing to risk the health of so many players for money." Gudas said that staying in a hotel room for the summer was a "way to end up with depression" and a "step into one's personal freedom" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/16).

Discussion around the NBA’s return has "not so subtly shifted further from player safety and closer to financial security over the past week, leading to increased optimism" about resuming the season, according to Ben Rohrbach of YAHOO SPORTS. The league "now appears to be weighing the economic impact of COVID-19 more heavily than the best practices against its spread." There is "really only one question that needs to be answered, god forbid: What if someone dies as a result of the NBA reopening too soon?" Rohrback: "We cannot let the desire to crown a champion outweigh the resulting losses" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/15). 

CP3 SAYS PLAYERS WANT TO PLAY: Thunder G and NBPA President Chris Paul on Friday said the “consensus around the league” is players “want to play badly.” He said there are “a lot of hard conversations that have to be made, but with the team around us ultimately we’ll get to where we want to.” Paul said he does not “have all the answers” regarding the circumstances required for a return to play, but noted “people are working tirelessly trying to figure it out.” Paul: “What is normal now? That’s what we’re trying to figure it out, what it looks like. Until we find those answers and we can come up with an actual plan, right now it’s basically sit and wait. The virus is in control” (“The Jump,” ESPN, 5/15).

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said it is "looking like it will be more challenging” than the league originally thought to play a full 34-match schedule this season. Garber, addressing MLS' various return-to-play scenarios this morning in an interview during the Leaders Direct conference, said, "We’re still focused on getting in as much of (the season) as possible." Garber also discussed how the league and its teams might use technology to ensure fans are more involved with the action. He said, "I’ve seen images of virtual fans and digital fans that have been done in watch parties. I thought NASCAR did a great job with a Zoom watch party. I think you’ll expect that when we get back to play, we’ll do similar things. I don’t think you can artificially replicate the environment in a stadium when you’re playing without fans. I think we’ve got to focus in on the game on the field. … When we do get back, you’ll see some creative and, not unprecedented but innovative, technologies in those broadcasts without fans."

The NWSL is considering a “tournament format for one month this summer” in a controlled environment in greater Salt Lake City for all nine teams, according to sources cited by the Washington Post’s Steven Goff. It is “unclear whether every owner is on board” with the plan, though sponsors would “help defray expenses.” Few, if any, fans would be allowed, though there will be live streams and TV coverage (TWITTER.com, 5/16). In Utah, Ryan McDonald noted Salt Lake City is “one of the bigger markets in the league behind Portland, and Utah has begun easing restrictions on small gatherings that could make such an event work sooner than many other states.” This comes as MLS is reportedly looking at Orlando as serving as a “hub” city (DESERET NEWS, 5/17).

Marty Walsh would only open Fenway Park if its employees were ensured their safety
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Marty Walsh would only open Fenway Park if its employees were ensured their safety
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Marty Walsh would only open Fenway Park if its employees were ensured their safety
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is "willing to reopen Fenway Park and TD Garden" for games this summer, but that willingness "rests upon non-negotiable conditions: no fans in the stands, and the City of Boston must sign off on advanced health and safety protocols that protect not only the athletes but everyone else," according to Michael Silverman of the BOSTON GLOBE. If MLB does move forward with its plan, Walsh "will have to agree that its COVID-19 protocols meet the city's own standards if games are to be played in Boston." Walsh said, "We want to see the plan. We'll have our public health experts take a look at it and make sure that they feel like everything is covered that needs to be covered moving forward here." Walsh added, "We won't even be near a situation where there's herd immunity, and there certainly won't be a vaccine" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/16).

More than 120 individuals and organizations have "contributed nearly" $16.5M to Colorado's COVID-19 Relief Fund to "help community organizations impacted by the pandemic," among them Peyton and Ashley Manning, Broncos President of Football Operations & GM John ElwayAnheuser-Busch and the Buell Foundation. The fund already has given more than $8.4M "in grants of up to $25,000 to about 370 groups across the state." Elway contributed $50,000 (DENVER POST, 5/16).

DRIVE-THRU DONATIONS: The Padres were part of a "drive-through food sharing event" in which more than 800 cars, trucks and SUVs "filled with active-duty military service members lined up in downtown San Diego on Saturday morning." Vehicles made their way down "two separate lines in the parking lot across from" Petco Park. The giveaway was "sponsored by the local chapter of United Service Organizations, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and theMLB team(SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/17).