Since the COVID-19 pandemic halted the play of major sports leagues in the US, the question on a lot of people’s minds has been, “When will sports be back?”
It has been over two months since the NBA suspended its season. Officials called it on the night of March 11, and most major sports followed suit soon after. As we approach June, there seems to be a realistic return on the horizon for the nation’s top organizations.
MLB owners, players at odds
Major League Baseball has seemingly taken the lead on preparing for a return, being the sport that has the least player-to-player contact.
Owners have approved a proposal for a July start that includes 82 games, a universal DH, 30-man active rosters and a 14-team postseason. Teams would be playing in their respective home stadiums. However, the big holdup is a proposed 50/50 revenue split for players and owners.
The players’ union and owners had agreed to prorated salaries for the shortened 2020 season in March. The MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is holding firm that players will not negotiate new salary terms following the March agreement.
The next issue is in regards to safety. This week, a 67-page proposal was sent to the players’ association mapping out safety guidelines for the 2020 season. The plan includes rigorous testing while banning high-fives, hugs and spitting. Social distancing would be observed in locker rooms, while players would be discouraged from showering at the stadium.
NBA opening facilities
The Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers were the first NBA teams to reopen their practice facilities back on May 8. The Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers have done the same in recent days. More teams are expected to open their facilities as social distancing restrictions within their states are loosened.
Regulations have been put in place by the NBA.
Only four players can be in the facility at one time and they must wear masks when not working out. Workouts are limited to 90 minutes and each player must have their temperature checked at the door. Nonplayers must wear a mask and gloves at all times and maintain social distancing policies while regularly using sanitizing equipment.
When it comes to getting back to actual games, the NBA has not solidified any plans. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that the league is waiting to make a decision on scheduling some time in early- to mid-June as long as it receives clearance from health officials.
NFL holding firm with 2020 plans
Despite sports being at a standstill, the NFL fully expects to have a full 2020 season, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
Florio sighted unnamed sources with direct knowledge of NFL’s deliberations that there is an “extremely small” chance the NFL won’t have a 2020 season. The biggest concern for games at this time remains testing for players and personnel, in both speed and abundance. Still, the league remains optimistic that that will be available when training camps begin in August.
When it comes to fans being able to attend the games, the NFL also remains hopeful. The focus is currently is on making sure the teams are safe and games can occur.
Reasons for optimism
Recent weeks have provided sports fans with some hope, as the UFC, NASCAR and international soccer have all held live events.
The UFC held three events over eight days in Jacksonville, FL, giving sports bettors something to consider. While there was an early issue with Ronaldo Souza and two of his cornermen testing positive for COVID-19 the day before his May 9 bout, no other reported issues arose throughout the three events. MMA organization implemented strict distancing and testing rules for all fighters and production crew.
The next scheduled UFC event will be May 30 in Jacksonville. UFC President Dana White is hoping to hold a June 6 pay-per-view event, UFC 250, in Las Vegas.
NASCAR returned to live racing on Sunday for the first time since March 8 with The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC. The race was completed in front of an empty grandstand while drivers and teams adhered to safety protocols.
Racing continues on Wednesday at Darlington with the Toyota 500 at 7:30 p.m. An altered season schedule will continue for NASCAR, with four races set to run from May 20-31.
International soccer also returned last weekend with Bundesliga resuming play last Saturday in Germany. Premier League soccer also resumed training on Tuesday with hopes of returning to gameplay by June 12.