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The world’s sports schedule cratered at warp speed Thursday, with leaders at all levels of sports deciding that the risk of playing games with the threat of the coronavirus hanging over them was too great despite the billions of dollars — to say nothing of the trophies, pride and once-in-a-lifetime experiences — hanging in the balance.
As the NHL and Major League Baseball put its seasons on hold and the NCAA scrapped all its spring championships — including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — the NBA, the first major pro league to shut down over the virus, said a second member of the Utah Jazz had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, technically known as COVID-19. All-Star teammate Donovan Mitchell said Thursday that he also had tested positive.
TV analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said he was self-quarantining for 48 hours because he had not felt well since a recent trip to New York and had been tested for COVID-19. He had not received the results.
Commissioner Adam Silver said the league’s hiatus likely would last at least a month, or roughly what would have been the remainder of an uninterrupted regular season. The 30-day minimum hiatus would mean no games until at least April 10.
The regular season was to go until April 15, with the playoffs scheduled to start April 18.
Speaking on TNT’s Inside The NBA in his first public comments since play was suspended, Silver did not say if the league intended for the regular season to resume or if the NBA, should it return to action, would immediately go into postseason play.
Asked if the season may be over, Silver said, “Of course it’s possible. I just don’t know more at this point.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an interview on CNBC, “What would kill the NBA season is if more players catch (the coronavirus). He called the hiatus a matter of “us being vigilant, as all businesses should be. Businesses are going to have to be incredibly vigilant, and that’s hard.”
Gobert apologized on Instagram to “the people that I may have endangered” after a video went viral of him seemingly making light of the pandemic by touching reporters’ microphones and recorders in an exaggerated manner before a game Monday.
“I had no idea I was even infected (at that time),” he said. “I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously.
In other sports:
• Major League Soccer is shutting down for 30 days, and the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled exhibitions in March and April for its men’s and women’s national teams as a precaution. … In Europe, Champions League matches were canceled for the first time, including the high-profile last-16 game between Manchester City and Real Madrid. Real Madrid said its players were being placed in isolation after one of the Real Madrid basketball team’s players, who share facilities with Madrid’s soccer players, tested positive for the virus. … In the English Premier League, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for the virus, forcing the club to close its training complex and put the entire team in self isolation. And Chelsea announced wing Callum Hudson-Odoi had returned a positive test, meaning its full playing squad and coaching staff were self-isolating. The Premier League was still pushing ahead with a full schedule and stadiums with fans, but league officials said there would be an emergency meeting today. Arsenal said, “It is clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates.”
• The ATP called off men’s tennis tournaments for the next six weeks. The WTA said its women’s tournament in South Carolina set for April 6-12 would not be held as scheduled, with decisions about the rest of the season to come in the next week.
• The first Formula One Grand Prix of the season, in Melbourne, Australia, was canceled two hours before the first official practice was set to start today after organizers relented to pressure to call it off. The cancelation followed McLaren’s decision to withdraw after one of its team members tested positive for the virus. McLaren said later in the day that another 14 team members also were in quarantine in a Melbourne hotel for 14 days in accordance with local health guidelines. … The city of Long Beach, Calif., canceled its IndyCar Grand Prix on April 19 as part of the city canceling large-scale events through April. … NASCAR announced it would race the next two weekends, in Atlanta and Homestead, without fans.
• Two boxing cards at Madison Square Garden were called off. A few hours after announcing the fights would proceed without crowds, promoter Bob Arum said they were off because there was no way to test the fighters for the virus. Arum’s Top Rank company had planned to show off two of its young cards, with Shakur Stevenson defending his featherweight title Saturday in an ESPN fight and Ireland’s Michael Conlan fighting on St. Patrick’s Day on the ESPN+ streaming service. “We thought we had solved the problem by saying no audience, but then the question became whether any of the fighters had the virus,’’ Arum said. “There was no way to get testing for them, so we agreed with the New York Athletic Commission that the fights would be called off.’’
• Horse racing is continuing to operate in North America and abroad without fans in the stands. Races at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in California, Aqueduct in New York, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Laurel Park in Maryland and Turfway Park in Kentucky will go on without spectators. The Dubai World Cup will be held at an empty Meydan Racecourse on March 28. Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. said that when it opens for racing again in April, fans won’t be allowed in. Churchill Downs said preparations to hold the Kentucky Derby on May 2 were up in the air. “A decision will be made closer to that date with respect to postponing the event until later in the year, using the most recent information while working with and seeking guidance from public health experts and authorities,” track officials said in a statement.
• For once, there were no major announcements coming out of Tokyo, where conflicting messages about the status of this summer’s Olympics have come out of the country, and the International Olympic Committee, for weeks. Instead, the IOC went ahead with its ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame, an event held in front of the ruined Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. The ceremony was pared down ceremony because of the coronavirus. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach noted the “difficult circumstances” created by the virus outbreak, but stressed the IOC’s commitment to the success of the Tokyo Games. In Tokyo, Governor Yuriko Koike said she believes that cancellation of the Games “is impossible” but she couldn’t say the virus wouldn’t have an impact.
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