Coronavirus and sports: NBA suspends season, fans banned from March Madness games

(NEW YORK) — As more people across the United States test positive for the novel coronavirus, the health emergency is forcing changes to major sporting events, from the NCAA to the Ivy League.

NBA suspends season

The NBA announced it will suspend its season indefinitely following games played on Wednesday.

The announcement came after a player with the Utah Jazz, identified as Rudy Gobert by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, was diagnosed with novel coronavirus. The Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game was suspended midway through the contest, though Gobert never traveled to the arena.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the NBA said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The news came after the league considered playing games in empty arenas.

Earlier Wednesday, in San Francisco, the mayor banned all group events over 1,000 people to slow the spread of the virus.

The Golden State Warriors had announced — prior to the league’s suspension — that its Thursday night game in San Francisco against the Brooklyn Nets would be played without fans.

“It’s a shock for sure,” Warriors star Steph Curry said Wednesday.

“Everything about our routines is reliant upon that kind of game day energy. Pulling up to the arena, seeing fans outside of Chase [Center] walking around in all the Warrior jerseys, even energy in the building, you can feel it all the way through the locker room, through the tunnel,” Curry said. “The only thing is try to have a conversation about how you raise your level of intensity from the jump because you don’t have that actual adrenaline rush of playing in front of 18,000 people like that.”

“I know once the game starts it will be fairly easy to get into that type of flow,” he added.

All other games and events at San Francisco’s Chase Center (home to the Warriors) through March 21 were canceled or postponed, officials added

Fans banned from NCAA games

Days ahead of the start of March Madness, the NCAA president said fans will be banned from “upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family” there.

“While I understate how disappointing this is for all fans,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday, “my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing.”

NHL still yet to make decision

The NHL said it is still in wait-and-see mode even after the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus,” the league said in a statement. “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow.”

Ivy League cancels springs athletics

The Ivy League on Wednesday canceled all games and practices through the rest of this academic year.

“In accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals, several Ivy League institutions have announced that students will not return to campus after spring break, and classes will be held virtually during the semester,” the council of presidents said in a statement. “Given this situation, it is not feasible for practice and competition to continue.”

Each school will determine if winter teams and athletes who qualified for postseason play will participate, the council said.

The league also announced it was canceling its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and that the regular season champions will advance to the NCAA tournament.

Changes for the MLB

In Washington state, hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the governor on Wednesday banned events of more than 250 people in several counties.

That prompted the Seattle Mariners to say the team is working with MLB “on alternative plans” for games scheduled in Seattle at the end of March.

The San Francisco Giants also made adjustments.

The Giants said they won’t play the March 24 exhibition game set to take place in the city and that the team said it is working on “alternative arrangements.” 

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