NHL and MLB Postpone Seasons, NCAA Tourney Canceled, Masters Delayed as Coronavirus Spreads

Sports leagues are halting operations amid global health crisis

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One day after the National Basketball Association suspended the current season to prevent spreading coronavirus, the National Hockey League has halted its season, Major League Baseball suspended spring training and pushed back the start of its regular season, and the NCAA canceled its winter and spring championships, which includes March Madness. One day after that sports bloodbath, Augusta National Golf Club postponed The Masters, which is the most prestigious PGA Tour tournament of the season, while NASCAR postponed its next two races.

“NASCAR has decided to postpone the race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend,” the racing outfit said on Friday. “We believe this decision is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, officials and everyone associated with our sport. We will continue to monitor this dynamic situation as we assess future race events.”

The decisions for both NASCAR and the PGA Tour come a day after both said they would hold their events without any fans in attendance.

“On Wednesday, March 4, we issued a memo stating that our plans to host the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals had not changed,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement. ” Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances.”

He continued: “Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.” The Masters, which was scheduled for April 9-12, has never been played outside March or April since its inception in 1934. No new date has been announced.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA said in a statement on Thursday. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”

Thursday also saw the NHL and MLS suspend their seasons, and the MLB delay the start of its upcoming season.

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 season beginning with tonight’s games,” said the NHL in a statement. “The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”

The NHL season would originally have ended on April 4, with playoffs continuing until the Stanley Cup finals in June.

The league’s statement continued: “We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball cancelled all remaining spring training games and push back the start to the upcoming season, which was scheduled for March 26, by “at least” two weeks.

“This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans. MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days. As of 4:00 p.m. ET today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely,” the league said in a statement. “MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

On Wednesday night, the NBA put a halt to the current season indefinitely after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. A second player was reported to have tested positive on Thursday. Also on Thursday, the MLS suspended its own season for the next 30 days. The World Figure Skating Championships that were set for March 16 in Montreal have also been canceled.

The coronavirus, which has sickened more than 129,000 around the world and killed more than 4,700 people, was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization Wednesday. In the U.S., confirmed cases have topped 1,000 people.

During a congressional hearing Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised that sporting events should ban fans while the disease spreads. “We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said . “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”