UPDATE March 12 4:20pm EDT: There will be no March Madness. “NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA announced in a statement.
UPDATE March 12 3pm EDT: The MLB, NHL, U.S. Soccer and the MLS joined the NBA in suspending their regular season Thursday. In addition, FIBA, La Liga, ATP, ITF, Big Ten, AAC, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East have suspended play and canceled tournaments. NASCAR has decided to race without fans in attendance. We’ll keep you posted to all new developments.
The suspension of the NBA regular season Wednesday night because of the Coronavirus outbreak, following a drip-drip-drip of cancellations from across the world of sports, felt like a one-two punch.
We were already reeling, just minutes earlier, from President Trump’s televised address from the oval office on his administration’s response to this global health crisis, which includes halting all flights from continental Europe to the U.S. and other measures.
Not since September 11, 2001 has there been this level of disruption in the world of sports. What’s missing from the mention of that horrible day, is that in time, we did resume play.
And we will again.
But right now, there is good reason to be concerned, and not just about sports. We who have lost lovers and friends to unbeatable viruses and diseases, and those of us who now live with them, can perhaps best relate to the worry that seems to be spreading even faster than the disease.
Our elders in the LGBTQ community might even feel triggered by the swift reaction we see political leaders making, especially if we compare it to our government’s silence in the face of AIDS. As we watch the world get wound-up over this particular affliction, it is impossible to forget the hesitation of those in power in the 1980s and ‘90s as HIV raged on and on, despite our clamoring for action, our pleas falling on deaf ears until ACT-UP changed the narrative.
This time, it’s leaders, not activists, who are sounding the alarm.
Earlier Wednesday, the World Health Organization announced the planet now faces a pandemic, urging that the extremely contagious nature of the Coronavirus requires aggressive action. Although young, healthy people will likely have no problem surviving this new health threat, the risk to the elderly with serious underlying conditions and anyone with weakened immune systems is very, very high. The worldwide death toll surpassed 4-thousand on Wednesday, with 38 succumbing here in the U.S.
Almost 1,200 people in 41 states and Washington, D.C., have tested positive for the Coronavirus, reports The New York Times, with the highest concentration of cases in Washington State, New York and California.
Potential transmission of the virus is apparently what prompted the NBA to take immediate action upon learning that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19 — that’s the official name of the virus — prior to Wednesday night’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. Gobert was not in the arena at that time. Officials postponed the game just before tip-off, sending fans home; both teams were quarantined in the arena.
Here’s the official statement from the NBA, courtesy of our partners at SB Nation:
The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the players on any team that faced the Jazz in the last 10 days must now self-quarantine.
Players from teams the Jazz have played within the past 10 days were told to self-quarantine, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Those teams are the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors.
No word on how this decision may impact the WNBA, which is scheduled to have its draft on April 17 and tip-off to a new season May 15. The Big 10 Conference announced it will not allow anyone other than student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams to attend its games.
The impact is not limited to basketball by any means. According to the Wall Street Journal, Major League Baseball is working with teams like the Seattle Mariners to find alternate sites for games in cities not as harshly impacted by the pandemic. The goal, according to that report, is to avoid what the NCAA had planned to do for March Madness, what the Pittsburgh Penguins planned to do to host the Blue Jackets, and what the XFL team in Seattle will do this weekend: play to empty arenas, just as soccer teams around the world have been doing.
Mike Axisa of CBS Sports is calling on MLB to suspend spring training and delay opening day for every ballclub. A conference call is reportedly set to address the virus on Friday.
Friday? That seems so far away, given what’s already happened. Next week’s World Figure Skating Championships are canceled, tweeted skating icon Johnny Weir.
I am so sad to share that the World Figure Skating Championships due to take place next week in Montreal, have been cancelled due to COVID-19. Despite missing magical performances, I am thankful to Montreal & Canada for looking after the health of our athletes and audiences. ⛸— Johnny Weir (@JohnnyGWeir) March 11, 2020
As our Brian Bell reported, SonicFox won the Mortal Kombat 11 championship in an effectively empty arena because of COVID-19 concerns. Elsewhere in esports, the Overwatch League has now canceled all events for March and April.
Wrestlemania in Tampa, Fla. could be impacted next. City leaders are debating whether to limit the size of crowds gathering within its city limits for the April event. Hundreds of thousands of people travel for Mania, as well as for the shows put on around Mania’s host city by independent promotions from around the world. Brian reports, “This year there are more shows focused on LGBTQ and marginalized communities than ever before, and the city and/or WWE’s response to COVID-19 concerns could heavily impact the success of those shows.”
The impact is also being felt among athletes competing at the high school level. Our Karleigh Webb reported in this week’s episode of The Trans Sporter Room podcast that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has canceled all remaining CIAC winter tournament games amid concerns about Coronavirus, cutting short the dreams of high school seniors across the state.
While it seems unfair that those student-athletes may never have their dreams fulfilled, most of us recognize that by taking necessary precautions now, lives could be saved. America has so far been spared the scourge felt around the globe, but that could change.
To those who claim the media is hyping the risks, consider this, from one of our co-founders:
There are only so many doctors, so much medicine, so many hospital beds. Limiting the speed of the spread is paramount. Millions will get this virus. Many millions. We have to do everything possible to reduce how many have it at the same time.— Cyd Zeigler (@CydZeigler) March 12, 2020
Only by putting a stop to exposure through social distancing, self-quarantines and yes, rigorous handwashing as well as other good hygiene advice from the Centers for Disease Control, will the Coronavirus be slowed down, perhaps even stopped. Health officials are asking all of us to mount a good defense as the best offense.
Maybe what the CDC really needs is more scientists and researchers who are LGBTQ, especially those of us in the world of sports.
Just ask any one of us and you’re more likely to hear a reminder that we live on the defense on the daily, against hate, oppression and discrimination. Is there anyone stronger or more resilient than an LGBTQ athlete who’s come out of the closet and conquered the world? Or an out fan who isn’t afraid to wave their rainbow flag (and more) on Pride Night? That’s powerful stuff, I can tell you. Whoever’s in charge should get on the case right away and start recruiting virus hunters who are queer.
Coronavirus: we are gonna snatch your wig, and you’ll never even see us coming. This time of uncertainty and fear will end, eventually. Sports will be back, with fans in the stands.
Until then, please: sneeze into your elbow, use hand sanitizer like it’s a 100% effective sex potion and, if you want to see our sports heroes back in action, wash your damned hands.