Sports come to a halt amid Coronavirus pandemic

After the NBA suspended its season “until further notice” in wake of a player testing positive for the coronavirus, leagues around the world could take similar steps that could halt games until further notices.

Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for the infection before Wednesday night’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. Gobert made light of COVID-19 just days prior to the positive test when he touched reporters’ recording devices during a media availability, which made him a target of criticism Wednesday night when a video resurfaced of the incident.

In a statement, the NBA said that the Jazz player was not at Chesapeake Energy Arena at the time of the game. Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier all but confirmed it was Gobert in a tweet, where he said he spoke with the fellow Frenchman who is “doing good.”

The positive test was enough for the league to consider safety moving forward and suspend game play immediately.

“The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19,” reads the statement. “The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for coronavirus, ESPN reported Thursday, citing sources.

The NBA’s decision to halt play has started a domino effect around the world with leagues taking similar precautions to ensure the safety of both fans and players.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that March Madness would go on as planned, but fans would be barred from attending due to concerns over the outbreak. In this instance, only staff members and family members can attend, the NCAA said in a statement.

That mandate didn’t stop Division 1 conferences from instilling its own safety regulations earlier this week. The Ivy League decided to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments Tuesday, which awarded Yale’s men’s and Princeton’s women’s teams’ automatic NCAA tournament berths due to winning the regular-season crowns.

The Ivy League then called off all spring sports, which was a unanimous decision amongst university presidents, according to a statement.

Several conference tournaments including the ACC, Big East, Pac-12 and more have banned fans from attending games this week. The Big Ten, SEC, and AAC canceled its tournament Thursday.

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas called for the NCAA to cancel or postpone March Madness due to the NBA’s decision.

“When the pros say they’re not playing because of a public health issue it strikes me as a bad look to trot out amateurs to play for money,” Bilas said.

Charles Barkley, who works for CBS and Turner Sports during March Madness, expressed similar thoughts.

“I think we’re going to have to shut down March Madness until we know more,” Barkley said on ESPN’s Get Up.

Here’s how other sports are handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Soccer

Major League Soccer is suspending its season immediately due to coronavirus, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported. The league was just two weeks into its season, with the official announcement announced shortly after.

“Major League Soccer has suspended match play for 30 days, effective immediately, as the league continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 with its medical task force and public health officials,” the league said in a statement.

“At the appropriate time, the league and clubs will communicate plans for the continuation of the 2020 season and update the status of league events.”

Added MLS Commissioner Don Garber: “Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season – based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees… We’d like to thank our fans for their continued support during this challenging time.”

In Europe, LaLiga — Spain’s top divisions — suspended all top flight and second-tier games immediately. Italy’s Serie A suspended play until April 3 due to a government order Monday. Teams were previously playing in empty stadiums before Monday’s decision.

In England, three Leicester City players are in isolation with coronavirus symptoms. The English Premier League, the nation’s top division, has yet to make a decision aside from playing in empty stadiums moving forward.

Tennis

Several upcoming tournaments were canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic.

It started when the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells was called off earlier this week. The ATP announced that the men’s tennis circuit would be suspended for six weeks, which includes events like the Miami Open and Monte-Carlo Masters.

The WTA has yet to make a decision regarding upcoming tournaments.

Racing

NASCAR is expected to make a decision on its schedule later today, according to reports, but the Homestead-Miami Speedway already pulled the plug on an upcoming NASCAR race taking place between March 20-22.

The Australian Grand Prix, which would be the season opener for Formula 1, has drivers wondering whether the circuit would be postponed or canceled after team members of McLaren were struck with the virus.