The CDC on March 15 gave a recommendation amid the coronavirus pandemic that will strongly affect the sports world.
“Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”
This would mean that even if the NBA and NHL were to attempt to continue — or in MLB’s case, begin — its seasons before then, it would be without fans in attendance.
Here’s a look at how it would affect each of the four major sports:
NBA and NHL
With stretch runs already beginning before the NBA and NHL seasons were suspended, this recommendation would seem to put both regular seasons in jeopardy. The NHL regular season was scheduled to end on April 4, while the NBA’s final slate of games were April 15.
While speaking during an “Inside the NBA” special on TNT last Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expected the break to be for at least 30 days but seemed to be prepared for the possibility of a long suspension.
“Even if we’re out for a month, even if we’re out for six weeks, we can still restart the season," Silver said. "It might mean that then the Finals take place in July or late July. Just my feeling was that it was way premature to suggest that we had lost the season.”
For reference, the NBA Finals were expected to begin on June 4.
You’d have to imagine this also affects the NBA draft. The NBA Combine in Chicago is scheduled for May 21-24. June 15 is the deadline for players to withdraw their names with the draft itself set to take place on June 25. Travel and crowd restriction could impact it all.
With the Flyers playing their best hockey in years, fans had their hopes on the team hoisting the Stanley Cup in late May or early June. Those hopes aren’t totally dashed but are put on hold.
The NHL Draft could also be affected by these new guidelines. The combine (June 1-6) in Buffalo, and the draft itself (June 26-27) — though it’s scheduled to be held in Montreal — may need to be pushed back.
The Phillies’ home opener was supposed to take place on March 26, against the Marlins.
Whether baseball would want to begin its season with no fans in the crowd could affect when the season would actually start.
With the rest of spring training cancelled and the whole country being told to practice social distancing, it may also prove to be difficult for players to be ready.
"We said look, we're gonna have time to prepare for the regular season," Girardi said on MLB Network Sunday. "Kinda keep it up like your offseason workouts right before you come to spring training, if you're a pitcher and throwing some light bullpen (sessions), do that. Because we really don't know how long we're going to be out and then we don't know how long the season's going to continue. Like, will we play regular season in the month of October? So if you continue to throw five or six innings like you're used to now, you'll be out of gas in the month of October.”
It’s also fair to wonder if a 162-game season is now feasible with so many teams playing in cold weather cities.
While the NFL isn’t scheduled to play games over the next eight weeks like the other major US sports, this recommendation from the CDC will likely still mean some changes. For starters, the NFL Draft scheduled April 23-25 on the Las Vegas Strip obviously shouldn’t go on as planned. The NFL wanted a lavish, showy event and hoped to top the 600,000-plus attendance figure from last year’s draft in Nashville. The NFL can either elect to push back the draft or hold it privately and remotely. Holding it without fans seems like the more logical solution.
Offseason workouts might also be affected. The Eagles are allowed to begin Phase 1 of their offseason program on April 20 and are allowed to hold their rookie minicamp as early as May 1. While the CDC recommendation isn’t meant to apply to daily operations, such as schools or businesses, an NFL work day isn’t exactly a normal 9-5 job.
For reference, the Eagles’ Organized Team Activities (OTAs) began on May 21 and they led into the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The schedule was likely going to be similar in 2020. Now, we’ll see.
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