Updated: Apr 2, 2020
The coronavirus has had a huge impact across all sports and continues to pose a threat to many games.
By Vicente Vitela, Sports Editor
The coronavirus has caused many sporting events worldwide to be cancelled entirely or to be played without fans.
In response to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the NCAA just announced that only staff, players, coaches and limited family will be able to attend championships, which includes the NCAA Tournament — also known as March Madness.
“I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert in a statement.
March Madness is college basketball’s biggest money maker of the year. In 2018, it generated $844.3 million in television and marketing rights according to the Associated Press. The coronavirus has forced the Ivy League to cancel their conference tournaments entirely. Conference tournaments can help a team seal a bid to the big dance, but since it’s been canceled, Yale, who was the regular season champion, will represent the men, and Princeton will represent the women. Several conferences which include the Atlantic 10 have suspended handshakes amid the pandemic and suggest as little contact as possible.
“I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about,” said Lebron James to the New York Post after a recent Laker game. In light of the news from the Center of Disease Control and the World Health Organization, James has since changed his mind.
The NCAA’s move follows in the footsteps of many United States sports leagues and countries around the world. In Japan, the baseball league postponed the start of its season, while one of its largest sumo wrestling events took place without fans. In Italy, the government first banned spectators from games before later suspending all sporting events in the country through April 3. In France and Spain, key soccer matches were slated to be played behind closed doors.
At Valley College, the men’s basketball team reached the state championship tournament for the first time in more than a decade, and due to the coronavirus pandemic, no fans will be allowed in attendance, just members of the team and game personnel. The coronavirus has affected all sports in some capacity and will continue to do so as more information is released daily.
“If that means not having any people in the audience ... so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health according to a usatoday.com article.
As of Wednesday, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors will play games without fans, starting when they host the Brooklyn Nets. This decision came after the San Francisco Health Office started prohibiting groups of 1,000 people at events. The league has also halted any team from signing players from the Chinese Basketball Association, as well as limiting locker room access to team personnel before and after a game. Teams are being instructed to create six-to-eight feet of space between players and media members when media are available.
For the NHL, whose season ends on April 6, only the San Jose Sharks will play games without fans thus far.
The MLB season has yet to begin, however, as a precaution, the league has also closed locker rooms to the media, and suggested that players interact with fans as little as possible. The Seattle Mariners who are scheduled to play 16 home games before the end of April, could wind up playing at an empty ballpark or a different one entirely amid the huge outbreak in Seattle.
The 2020 Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9, and there has been no word on the games thus far. The International Olympics Committee has reiterated that they are fully committed to the success of the Tokyo games taking place. The flame lighting ceremony that is scheduled to take place in Greece, will take place with no fans in attendance the country has announced.