Major sports leagues in the US halt play or exclude fans over coronavirus outbreaks

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Perhaps nothing illustrates the wide-ranging effects the novel coronavirus has had on the United States as the state it left major US sports in on Thursday.

By the afternoon, most professional leagues and the governing body of major college sports had canceled or postponed a slew of games and major events. Some elected to go ahead — without fans in the stands.

“This is time for big events like March Madness, big events like these big sports arena things to take a pause for the next four to six to eight weeks,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said at a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, “while we see what happens with this outbreak in this nation.”

The National Basketball Association announced Wednesday night it would suspend its season after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.

The first player, identified by ESPN and other outlets as all-star center Rudy Gobert, was later joined by a second Jazz player who tested positive, the team said Thursday.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Thursday canceled March Madness — the men’s Division I basketball tournament and the biggest annual event in college basketball — as well as other winter and spring NCAA championships.

“This decision is based on the evolving Covid-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” NCAA said in a statement.

Major League Baseball will cancel its remaining spring training schedule and delay Opening Day — scheduled for March 26 — back by at least two weeks, the league said Thursday.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans,” the league said in a statement. “MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

The National Hockey League said it would suspend its season, effective immediately.

The league had been preparing for the developments without “taking premature or unnecessary measures,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. – READ MORE

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