Donald Trump met with the various commissioners of the American sports leagues to urge the NFL to continue its plans to broadcast the NFL Draft remotely and play in the fall.
Reports from the call did not address immediate direction given to the NBA or NHL, who would have been on the doorstep of the playoffs today. Both leagues run the risk of losing nearly one quarter of their seasons and their entire postseasons as the nation largely locks down to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Brian Windhorst reported the NBA is planning for how to cancel the basketball season rather than start it again. Adam Silver simply said on the call that the league will follow health guidance with a hope to start again. Cedric Maxwell’s podcast discussed the implications of continuing to discuss restarting the economy and hopeful trajectories as the worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic rattle hospitals.
“Sports is going to take a second base,” Maxwell said. “The virus has to be the first thing. Not the economy, not sports, not our hope of getting back for Major League Baseball. It’s curing the virus and getting that set.”
While Italy, Australia, Spain and China saw a flattening curve, or reduction in cases hitting hospital capacity, their outbreaks are weeks behind America’s and they took more stringent steps. The US response has varied state-to-state. China, in a devastating blow to NBA morale, attempted to open the Chinese Basketball Association before concerns of asymptomatic carriers forced the government to shut down the attempt.
The implications will be massive for the leagues that lose games. Negotiations are underway as to what percentage of their salary players will forfeit, with employees in both league offices and teams taking pay cuts — including Silver. Players initially stepped up to support furloughed arena staff, prompting more owners to follow with relief.
It’s estimated that more than 9,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, with the US Surgeon General announcing a grim prediction for the week ahead. The devastation this week, Jerome M. Adams said, will rival 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.
The NFL season remains in the distant future and in this podcast Nick Gelso said there’s virtue in remaining optimistic. However, there are only several end games to the COVID-19 pandemic: everyone who can get infected does, a vaccine is developed (a process that lasts over one year), or the uncertain proposition of a slowdown in summer that could spark up in the fall again. Maxwell leaned toward reality, that this is going to be a long, difficult period that needs to be accepted as such.
Trump, with the sports conference part of his wider optimistic rhetoric, continues to address the economic side of the devastation to mixed public review. Unemployment claims surpassed 6.6 million last week, a 3000% spike, with small businesses only able to receive federal loans unsure if they’ll exist after the crisis ends.
Sports leagues face their own existential questions, with collective bargaining likely after they lose ticket, TV and other expected income. That needs to be addressed, but the viruses devastation has already surpassed containment in the US and its economic toll is already inevitable — with the question of what happens if things restart too early and cause another outbreak looming large against any optimism.
“There are going to be some people who never get their jobs back, I pray for all those people,” Maxwell said “Once we get past this, it’s going to be a very different country. As a matter of fact, I’ll challenge you this, sports are going to be completely different.”
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