March 12th, 2020: The day US sports administration just about simultaneously agreed to bring normal operations to a standstill – in order to slow the spread of the pandemic of COVID-19, known as Coronavirus.
“Don’t ever doubt that one small single event can trigger an unstoppable chain of events that gain momentum with increasing force, and nothing is ever the same.” – Unknown
Whatever the outcome of the Coronavirus pandemic, the world will remember the 48 hour period, from Wednesday to Thursday, as a significant milestone in the stories we tell of this pandemic. It will have a lasting effect on the very fabric of our society.
As the world becomes increasingly aware of the risks and dangers of COVID-19, let us look back at the recent events in the sports world.
Not just that our normal routine of youth, collegiate, and professional sports was interrupted, but that league owners, university presidents, and billionaires set aside revenue, wins, and the pursuit of championships, for the common good of society. Professional basketball or little league baseball, power five or group of five, we all chose to prioritize human beings, instead of risking more lives at sporting events and other large social gatherings. I think that is something to be proud of.
The events leading up to March 12th could be summarized much like a row of dominos. One falls, then the next. From far away, it may not look like much. But, it does not stop.
How did we get here?
A dozen cases of pneumonia-like symptoms were treated in Wuhan, China on December 31st, 2019. Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as a virus eight days later, one that would spread to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States by the end of the month. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global health emergency on January 30th. From there, it continued its crawl around the globe. For a medical timeline of COVID-19, click here.
Miami University (Ohio) postponed a combined two men’s and women’s basketball games in late January in fear of possible positive COVID-19 results of two MU students that had recently traveled to China.
The 2020 World Indoor Track & Field Championships (scheduled to begin today in Nanjing, China) were postponed on January 29th due to fear of spreading the virus. They will be rescheduled for 2021.
Not far from China, the 2020 Olympic Games are set to be held in Japan starting on July 24.
“I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games,” said International Olympic Committee President Yoshiro Mori to the Associated Press (via ESPN) on February 13th. “Let me make that clear.”
Two weeks later, virus outbreaks in Italy led to the national government order to ban crowds at sporting events and close schools and universities for the time being. Three Serie A matches were suspended in February.
The LPGA announced on February 10th that two tournaments in Thailand and Singapore (originally scheduled for later that month) would be canceled.
The calendar turn brought increasing concerns to sports administrators in the United States. The National Basketball Association (NBA) sent a memo to players encouraging proper conduct with fans and teammates in order to limit the spread of the virus. The National College Players Association emplored the NCAA to consider playing in arenas with no fans, a decision the NCAA would come to on March 11th. The NBA sent
On March 5th, reports surfaced of a stadium employee of the XFL’s Seattle Dragons testing positive for the coronavirus.
A day later, Lebron James was quoted saying that he would not play in NBA games that did not allow fans in the arena.
“I play for my teammates, I play for the fans,” James told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s what it’s all about.”
He later claimed no knowledge of league discussions on the topic at the time he was asked and mentioned he would respect the decision of the league it was implemented.
The NBA, Major League Baseball (MLB), and Major League Hockey (NHL) would close their locker rooms to the media as preventative measures for Coronavirus continued to increase.
During a usual media press conference on Monday, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert joked with media members by touching each microphone (Video) on the table before exiting the room. It was behavior he would later apologize for, calling it “careless.”
Wednesday, March 11th
12:30 pm CT: A positive sign emerged out of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), approximately 40 American players were instructed to prepare to return to the league.
2:00 pm CT: It was the Ivy League that set the precedent for the hours to come, on Wednesday morning, by announcing the cancellation of all athletic events through the remainder of the academic year.
All Day: More announcements came later that day from the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, Golden State Warriors, and Seattle Dragons that future games would be held without fans in attendance. The 2020 College Basketball Invitational was canceled later that day.
3:30 pm CT: With the NCAA announcing that their division one men’s and women’s basketball tournament games would be closed to the public, numerous division one conferences announced that their league tournaments would be played with few or no fans present. In a span of two and a half hours, the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, AAC, Pac-12, and SEC tournaments were all announced to change dramatically in order to avoid spreading the virus. Many other conferences followed suit in the hours to come.
5:55 pm CT: Rudy Gobert and Emmanuel Mudiay of the Utah Jazz were originally ruled out due to illnesses for Wednesday road game at Oklahoma City. Gobert’s status was questionable in the hour leading up to the 7:00 pm tip-off.
Just before 7:00 pm: The Jazz and Thunder were warming up and preparing for the game. Moments before the game was cleared to begin, Thunder’s head medical staffer, Donnie Strack, ran out to the court to share information with the game officials. The officials asked both teams to return to their locker rooms. Jazz and Thunder players each underwent Coronavirus testing (swab & fever tests) along with NBA security personnel.
7:07 PM: The Thunder’s public address announcer announced that the game was postponed, assuring the crowd that everyone was safe. (Video)
8:27 PM CT: Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for Coronavirus.
8:31 PM CT: The NBA announced that the remainder of the season would be suspended. Players of teams that the Jazz faced in the previous ten days were told to self-quarantine: the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors.
9:40 PM CT: Nebraska Men’s Basketball Head Coach Fred Hoiberg was hospitalized after feeling ill. Hoiberg test results came back negative for coronavirus.
11:34 PM: The NBA suspended the rest of the G League season.
That night: Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban reflected on the recent season suspension and efforts to help out employees who are affected by the situation. (Video)
“It’s not about the team” said Cuban said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s about the country and life in general…we’ll pay our hourly employees as if they worked.”
Thursday, March 12th
9:30 AM: Patriot League was the first conference to cancel their spring seasons, leading the way for a massive wave of sports news in the day. The winter championships would later be canceled.
10:42 AM: Major League Soccer (MLS) was the next professional league to suspend the season, this time for the next 30 days. The National Women’s Soccer League canceled preseason matches.
10:47 AM: The Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the suspension of pre-draft travel. At the same moment, the SEC, AAC, and Big Ten all announced the cancelations of their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. 13 other conferences would follow suit before noon.
11:32 PM: The SEC suspended all sports competition for the remainder of the year, becoming the first conference to set that precedent.
12:03 PM: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) canceled all of their winter championships after multiple conferences and schools suspended or canceled their seasons.
12:15 PM: The MLB suspended all operations and later announced that Opening Day would be delayed, spring training would be canceled, and the World Baseball Classic would be postponed indefinitely.
12:33 PM: NASCAR and IndyCar stated that its races would be held without fans. Moments later, the NHL would put their season on pause.
12:49 PM: Duke University announced the suspension of all athletics activities. Kansas, Arizona State, West Virginia were among notable schools to follow suit. News like this led to the cancelation of the division one men’s and women’s basketball tournaments two and a half hours later.
“This is not just [about] student-athlete health, this is about being a responsible global citizen in this to help stop the spread of [Coronavirus].” Jay Bilas told SportsCenter. (Video)
2:31 PM: Women’s Tennis Association cancels the Miami Open and Volvo Car Open.
2:45 PM: The National Football League (NFL) canceled its annual league meeting.
3:47 PM: The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) went against recent trends and announced that Saturday’s fight in Brazil would continue without fans present.
5:28 PM: Arsenal Head Coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus and close their London training center.
6:16 PM: The XFL announced that they will not be playing its regular-season games, but promised to pay players their base pay and benefits for the regular season.
9:12 PM: The PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the Players Championship and three additional events.
Midnight: As every night as ended before, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt gave us his “One Big Thing” to warm our hearts and focus on what really matters.
“The elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are vulnerable and it’s everyone’s duty as humans to concern themselves with those among us who need the most help, right?” said Van Pelt on SportsCenter. “Try to protect yourselves and your loved ones, and in doing so, look out for your neighbors as well. And all of this sounds pretty heavy, particularly for a show where we just do highlights and games and goof on bad beats, but the games are on hold and that sucks.”
Clearly, there were more events that have happened in the last fews days and the last two and a half months.
Nevertheless, the events we have just witnessed were historic, something that will not be forgotten soon. The statement that these actions make is clear: we are trying to help each other.
Stay safe out there. Follow the instructions of medical professionals and take care of yourself, so the disease does not spread even more. For more info on the response to the outbreak, visit www.cdc.gov/.
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