Sports Leagues Face Cancellations Due to Coronavirus Fears

Russell Westbrook and the Rockets are on hiatus thanks to COVID-19.
Russell Westbrook and the Rockets are on hiatus thanks to COVID-19. Photo by Eric Sauseda
On Wednesday evening, the NBA announced that it would suspend the 2019-20 season until further notice after the Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder game was abruptly canceled. According to reports, at least one Jazz player was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, which was discovered before the game began. Speculation is the player is center Rudy Gobert. Just two days before, after speaking with reporters about the virus, Gobert jokingly touched all the microphones on the press table before leaving the room.

The Rockets were scheduled to play at Los Angeles on Thursday.

This comes on the heels of NCAA basketball announcing all tournament games for men and women would be played in empty arenas, limiting attendance to team members, staff and media along with a handful of guests of players and universities.

There have been numerous other cancellations and restrictions on upcoming sporting events including the Oakland A's, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners being forced to relocate or postpone home games as their cities grapple with the illness and have banned large gatherings including sporting events. The Astros have a series in Oakland scheduled for March 30 through April 1. No word on the next series in Anaheim.

As most have heard, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo canceled its remaining events on Wednesday.

The rapid escalation in cancellations comes amid new fears of the spread of the virus in the United States. President Trump gave a live televised address Wednesday evening intimating a ban on all travel from Europe which was later walked back by the administration. But, it is clear that sports leagues are responding to the World Health Organization's designation of COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic.

While the cancellations and postponements may be a nuisance for fans and organizations, literally thousands of jobs are dependent upon these enterprises from ticket takers to food vendors to print shops and clothing retailers. The outbreak of the virus has already had a devastating impact on the overall economy and is expected to last months along with the virus itself.

There have been no announcements of cancellations from the NHL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA, MLS or others, but it wouldn't be surprising to hear of postponements for all kinds of sporting events until later in the year as fear grips the nation over the spread of the disease.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke