OKC Thunder and NBA fans awaited news from the Commissioner’s conference call with President Trump. Takeaways cite hope for fans to be attendance by August but the pandemic will dictate timelines.
On March 11th prior to the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz game postponement, the first professional athlete (Rudy Gobert) tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequently, the NBA suspended their season and all major league sports leagues followed suit.
Despite fans and players alike eagerly anticipated news on a return of live sports the coronavirus continues to wage war on the world. The United States has vaulted ahead of all countries with more than double the cases of anywhere else (311,637 as of Sunday, April 5th).
The initial timelines for a mid to late June return of NBA action were based on what was occurring in China with the CBA. China has endured the worst period of the pandemic and has flattened the curve but there are still positive tests primarily the result of travelers returning from abroad. Although China is attempting to ease back to normalcy the unknown of a second wave persists.
Foreign players were summoned with the intent of restarting the CBA season. Instead, the league announced another delay — with the new target day of sometime in May.
The CBA is clearly the test market for the league and continues to be monitored as an example the NBA can hopefully emulate. Clearly, the pandemic and what stage the control of the spread of the virus is in North America is the ruling principle in this situation.
With that in mind, fans have awaited any update on the situation and when news of this conference call was announced there was a certain amount of trepidation. Could this mean the NBA season would be canceled? Commissioner Adam Silver joined his fellow counterparts in this unparalleled call. Firstly and probably most importantly is the fact none of the Commissioners came away from the call definitively canceling their seasons.
The other clear takeaway was the comments from President Trump that his expectation is for the NFL season to be unaffected in its start date in September. That the President said he hopes to have fans back in stadiums by August and September offers two unsaid realities. His hope may be for fans to be in stadiums but the coronavirus pandemic and health officials will dictate the precise date.
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As per the ESPN article by Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski, they chronicled the comments from President Trump noting no clarification from medical professionals supports this projected timeline.
“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. “I think it’s … whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
For basketball fans hearing those two months earmarked as a target might offer some optimism for the NBA to return at some point this summer — but to an empty arena(s).
Again, how swiftly North America is able to stop the spread of the virus and get closer to no cases is when the players could conceivably return to play. But, that still won’t mean tens of thousands of adoring fans could be in attendance to watch those games.
Even Trump’s hope for August and September NFL games with fans in attendance isn’t necessarily going to happen and not a universally held belief. Again, as per the Schefter, Wojnarowski article, California Governor Gavin Newsom isn’t confident his State will be ready to have fans attend that soon for NFL games.
The good news is none of the leagues have canceled their season. Medical experts will dictate the direction and timelines and it’s clear, at least for the NBA, any games played will be without fans. As we all continue to thirst for live sports that is an acceptable short term dynamic.
Regardless of our desire for sports, the overriding thought is for everyone to stay healthy, practice physical distancing and get through this pandemic together.