Sports fans had anticipated watching NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, NCAA and high school baseball and softball, Major League and minor league baseball, NASCAR motorsports, pro tennis, and pro golf. All the major sports leagues are shut down waiting on the orders on when the athletes can return to action. That might not happen anytime soon.
Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading public health expert on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, said that it might be very difficult for major sports in the United States to return to action this year, with or without fans in the seats.
‘Safety for the players and the fans trump everything,” Dr. Fauci said. “If you can’t guarantee safety then you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say “We might not have this sport this season.”
On Tuesday, the Alabama Political Reporter asked Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) if there would be a high school football season this fall. She could only say, “I hope so,” and would not commit to allowing athletes to use athletic fields and facilities beginning in June for training.
Various leagues, including the NBA, NHL, MLS, NASCAR and Major League Baseball, have considered a number of options for restarting play that came to a halt in March as the coronavirus began spreading across the country.
Even though the National Football League has not lost any money yet, as their season begins in September, Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday cut his $30 million a year pay to $0 and announced that NFL staff would receive pay cuts and some would be furloughed moving forward.
Also on Wednesday, MLB announced that it was cancelling its July Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Derek Jeter and the other 2020 inductees will be inducted in 2021 with the 2021 Hall of Fame class.
The loss of football revenue would be devastating to college athletics department budgets.
“There isn’t a model I can run to fix the problem of not having any football,” University of Central Florida Athletic Director Danny White said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in my position with a big football fan base that could make decisions to fix that. I don’t know what happens — there’s not a model, there’s not a solution, there’s not an action I can take that’s going to solve that problem.”
“We have no certainty of what the future looks like,” said Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. “We have no certainty of when we can begin again. We have no certainty of when we will have a football season, which is the economic engine for all of this.”
Playing sports without fans is one alternative being discussed. Last week Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Aderholt) was conducting polling on his social media asking Alabamians if we would have sports without fans in the stands for the remainder of 2020. 41 percent of the 403 respondents answered Yes; while 59 percent thought the fans would be back.
The NBA will allow players to go to team training facilities for workouts as early as May 8 in states where that is not prohibited. The NHL is considering doing the same late in May.
Despite social distancing and the forced economic shutdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus 1,064,572 Americans have been confirmed positive with the coronavirus. 61,669 Americans have already died in this global pandemic, the vast majority of them just this month.
(Original reporting by SFGate and ESPN contributed to this report.)