While the country continues to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, professional sports leagues are looking for a safe path to resume their seasons. The country’s top six sports leagues have announced plans that span from tentative to concrete with caveats that could alter dramatically if the country deals with a surge in coronavirus cases.
MLB Players and Owners Negotiate for July 4 Opening Day
Out of the big four sports, the league closest to agreeing on a path to games is Major League Baseball. Reports suggest that league officials hope to put a plan in place to get teams, like the Colorado Rockies, back on the diamond by early June for workouts with a target date of July 4th for Opening Day.
After agreeing to a pay decrease in late March, the players are being asked again by owners to shoulder the expected financial losses when holding games without fans. The additional salary cut, coupled with safety concerns, is a bridge too far for players like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell. The left-hander said on his Twitch stream Wednesday afternoon that the risk created by COVID-19 wasn’t worth the reward with a lowered salary.
After citing that getting COVID-19 will damage his body “forever,” Snell added, “I’m just saying, it doesn’t make sense for me to lose all of that money and then go play. And then be on lockdown, not around my family, not around the people I love, and getting paid way the hell less — and then the risk of injury runs every time I step on the field.”
NBA Hopes To Make Choice Soon On Return
For the first time since Rudy Gobert’s COVID-19 test came back positive in mid-March, the NBA has a plan to lift the suspension from the 2019-20 season and make a final decision on how to complete the playoffs and crown a champion.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the owners on Tuesday that he hoped to decide in the next 2-to-4 weeks if the season can continue or if he believes cancellation is the correct path. Although most players are hopeful for a return, the logistics on where to play, how to maintain safety protocols, and what happens if a player contracts the virus must be outlined before games can resume.
The Denver Nuggets were one of a handful of NBA teams to open their facilities for players who wished to run through voluntary individual workouts with team staff. The opening of the Pepsi Center for training is the first official move the team has made since the suspension of the current season due to COVID-19.
NFL On Track For September Start To 2020 Season
With a couple of months before players are due to report to training camp, the NFL remains on schedule to begin their season on September 10th with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.
Although games will probably be held without fans to begin the season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made no official decision.
Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller is one of many players around the league eager to get back onto the field. But Miller, who is recovering from COVID-19, is grateful for the rest before camp.
When asked about the effects the virus has had on his recovery, Miller said, “taking 17 days off and then trying to get back into it, I really feel it. I still feel my lungs trying to get back in shape. It’s just all the wear and tear that it puts on your lungs. I’ve got asthma on top of that, so to try to run with asthma and then try to run after the coronavirus, that’s what I think some of the shortness of breath comes from.”
The Broncos open the 2020 season on Monday, September 14th, against the Tennessee Titans.
NHL Wants to Start Return With Playoffs
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told The Mercury News this week that the league is preparing for a return to action and that the suggestion of canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 season is “not something I’m even contemplating.”
Bettman’s plan is reportedly to jump right into the playoffs once teams return after a short training period. If that occurs, then the Colorado Avalanche will be the 2nd seed in the Western Conference as they stand just two points behind the St. Louis Blues for the top spot.
“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said.
MLS Hopes to Hold Tournament Before Regular Season Resumes
MLS officials have mapped out a return to soccer with a made for television event that would require all 26 teams, including the Colorado Rapids, to head to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for a 3-to-4 week training camp culminating in a full league tournament.
The hope is players will report to the resort on June 1st to being training with the tournament taking place roughly 21-28 days after teams report for training.
Although the tournament could be an appetizer that allows teams to return to a modified schedule later in the year, the sticking point between the league and players is a 20% reduction in salary and other monetary modifications.
If the players and owners can agree on a salary structure, the next hurdle will be safety measures, including testing for COVID-19.
NASCAR Revving Back Into Action
NASCAR is ready to run nine races over the next few months, the first came last Sunday at Darlington Raceway. The racing league piggybacked the Darlington race with another on Wednesday and next will move to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., for two races in four days.
“As we prepare for our return to racing at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, the industry has been diligent in building the return-to-racing schedule,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in a statement ahead of Sunday’s race. “We are eager to expand our schedule while continuing to work closely with the local governments in each of the areas we will visit. We thank the many government officials for their guidance, as we share the same goal in our return — the safety for our competitors and the communities in which we race.”
NASCAR, a sport where player-to-player contact is not necessary, appears ready to return to racing with the safety of their drivers, pit crews, and executives at the forefront, even with empty stands.