Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League all suspended play and the NCAA canceled its national basketball tournaments on Thursday, joining the National Basketball Association in going dark as the nation tries to head off the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced it would delay the start of the 2020 season by at least two weeks and cancelling spring training games.
NCAA March Madness
The most dramatic move of the day was the decision by the NCAA to cancel its 2020 NCAA basketball tournaments, which were about to start. The move effectively ends the collegiate playing careers of hundreds of players who had hoped to compete for a national championship. It also ends some Cinderella seasons that fans had hoped would culminate in a deep tournament run, but are unlikely to ever be repeated.
That decision was surprising because earlier the NCAA had decided it would play tournament games in largely empty stadiums, protecting fans by not having them there. But NCAA President Mark Emmert said the decision was made to ensure the games don't contribute to the spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of playing them given decisions by other organizations.
Several conferences on Thursday had decided to cancel their own championship tournaments, complicating the process of deciding who would play in the national tournament. It also means a huge financial loss for the schools.
Major League Soccer, which is a couple weeks into its season, suspended all games for at least 30 days, and said officials would figure out later when play can resume.
“Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season — based on the advice and guidance from ... public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
The NHL also announced it is pausing its season, effective immediately. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league hopes to resume "as soon as it is appropriate and prudent." Bettman said he's hopeful the stoppage won't affect the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The NFL pre-season doesn't start until late summer and so far hasn't been affected, but the league canceled its annual meeting that had been set for March 29 through April 1. The meeting typically deals with things like rules changes — but some business can instead be moved to the league's spring meeting in May.
The baseball, hockey and soccer leagues join the NBA, which suspended play on Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. Since then, at least one other player, also with the Jazz, has tested positive.
So far, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are also still scheduled to take place in late summer.
Photo credit: Keenan Hairston, Flickr