With sports on hold for now, league owners are already looking at ways to continue their season despite the virus outbreak.
By Vicente Vitela, Sports Editor
All sporting leagues have either been cancelled or postponed, and with no end of the virus in sight, league owners are looking at numerous ways to continue including the possibility of a sport competing on an island.
In Los Angeles, we should be watching Lebron James and Khawi Leonard battle it out to see who brings an NBA championship back to the city of Angels, but instead basketball fans (LA in particular) must sit, and wait. Basketball was the first sport in the United States to cease operations amid the coronavirus outbreak, with players like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert — among a few others — testing positive with the virus.
This begs the question when and how can the league reopen up safely. One idea being thrown around is empty-arena games, but there is more to it than that as the league is looking to have all the teams play in one location. The arena would be determined wherever the coronavirus case numbers are low, and as an extra precaution, the league would also require teams to stay in their hotel, basically only allowing them to leave for games and food.
“I think there is a sense that we can continue to take a leading role as we learn more in coming up with an appropriate regimen and protocol for returning to business,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when speaking to the Boston Globe about a possible return.
Some obvious hurdles for the NBA include the fact that players will be on top of one another and with many coronavirus case victims asymptomatic the risk of infection can be very high. In an interview with TNT, Silver stated that the league will not make any decisions before May 1, and that they are looking at other ways to resume the league even if that means pushing back the start of next season.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship was set to run a live show in an undisclosed location which later was revealed to be an Indian Reservation in Lemoore, CA. That was until California Gov. Gavin Newsom called Disney, the parent company of ESPN who broadcasts the UFC, and said no live sports of any type will go on in his state, therefore nixing any plans Dana White — the president of the UFC — had of hosting an event. Before deciding to run in Lemoore, one idea thrown around by White was the idea of purchasing a private island (formerly owned by Jeffrey Epstein) to host fights. Considering the island would be in international waters, White would have free range to do what he pleases, and fighters outside the U.S. would be able to fight.
“I also secured an island. The infrastructure is being built right now,” said White when speaking to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “We're going to do all of our international fights on this island.”
The UFC may not need to use “fight island” as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent out a memo stating that employees at a professional sport and media production with a national audience are allowed to run in Florida as long as no audience is present. This includes all athletes, production and executive teams, thus giving White the ability to run in the state if he chooses to.
Florida is also under consideration as one of the possible landing spots to host multiple MLB teams as Commissioner Rob Manfred is considering having games played in the teams respective spring training facilities (Florida and Arizona). This would require a re-shuffling of the leagues as American and National teams would be forced to face each other only in their state and new divisions would need to be created. These games would also be played under a shortened season and without fans in attendance. The longest stretch without MLB games being played was the 1981 players strike which lasted 58 days, and if this virus continues to grow, Manfred may be looking at breaking that record or deciding to postpone the season entirely.
“I fully anticipate baseball will return this season,” said Manfred in a letter to baseball operation employees.
NFL fans should expect their season to start on time according to President Donald Trump, who held a conference call recently with league owners. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t had to make drastic changes like the sports above, besides the decision to announce the first round of the draft from his basement in accordance with the safer at home orders. If this virus continues through the summer, then we can expect to see changes in the NFL but until then everything goes on as planned.