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Professional sports leagues take action amidst COVID-19 pandemic

By John Kim and Ashley Lee June 3, 2020

Kenneth Yang Art


Due to COVID-19, all of the major sports leagues in the US—the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL) and the Major League Baseball (MLB)—are on an indefinite leave of absence. This unprecedented halt in the world of sports has substantially decreased revenue, consequently taking a toll on athletes’ salaries. With the changes COVID-19 has brought, sports leagues are utilizing various virtual platforms to continue supplying fans with content. 

​ Unable to start their season as scheduled on March 26, the MLB worked with Sony Interactive Entertainment and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to create a baseball video game competition with actual MLB players participating. Similar to the MLB video game tournament, the NBA partnered with the National Basketball Players’ Association (NBPA) and 2K Games to organize a NBA 2K20 Players Tournament, bringing 16 of the best 2K players in the league together virtually to determine a Champion. After winning against three of his fellow NBA players, Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker was crowned champion of the virtual tournament. The NBPA and 2K donated $100,000 to the two charities chosen by Booker, #FirstRespondersFirst and Arizona Food Bank Network, to support COVID-19 relief efforts. 

The NBPA and 2K donated $100,000 to the two charities chosen by Booker, #FirstRespondersFirst and Arizona Food Bank Network, to support COVID-19 relief efforts. 

​ “Virtual tournaments are beneficial because they provide sports content  for viewers and fundraise for good causes. I watched a Twitch Rivals game in which professional football players competed up against popular Twitch players in a Fortnite match. I enjoyed watching the tournament—it was entertaining to see NFL linebackers being defeated by teenagers,” Freshman Michael Sher said.

​ In addition to their video game tournament, professional sports leagues are also tasked with planning for their returns. The MLB communicated with the government and medical experts to draft a plan for their regular-season games. Although fans would not be able to watch the games in the ballparks, MLB officials are hoping to begin their delayed season by early July. USA Today reported that the MLB is developing a three division league, where teams only play against teams within their division. This shorter season would significantly reduce the amount of travel amongst athletes, ultimately reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading. 

​ Although their abbreviated season has not yet begun, the MLB has allocated $170 million to continue paying their players. CNBC reported that athletes with non-guaranteed contracts received $275 to $1,000 per day, and athletes with guaranteed contracts received $4,775 per day.

The NBA’s reopening is not far behind the MLB. ABC reports that the NBA has been in talks with Disney CEO Bob Chapek about a location for NBA games to be played as early as July. This location, the  ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, is a 255-acre campus with multiple basketball arenas that could easily manage the NBA’s need for an isolated “bubble” of basketball. With players’ contracts already being cut 25% by the NBA Player Association (NBPA) due to financial strain stemming from a lack of television and media-based revenue, the NBA is looking to safely resume play this season as soon as they can. 

​ Compared to the MLB and the NBA, the NHL has a more ambitious goal for hockey’s return. The NHL will abandon  the rest their regular season entirely, instead opting to skip straight to a modified playoffs. This year’s playoffs will consist of 24 teams —eight more than usual—competing for the Stanley Cup. These 24 teams will be the teams who had the best records when the season abruptly ended in March.  The NHL Players Association approved this proposal in a  29-2 vote, with games scheduled to start no later than July 1st.

​ “I think sports leagues should be under the same rules that the rest of the country are, they should not be exceptions to the orders in place. However if they do decide to continue on with games, then they should definitely play without crowds,” Junior Devon Shao said.

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