Coronavirus in sports: 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021; NFL draft, season updates

NBC Sports Staff
Peter King on NBC Sports

As much of the world deals with outbreaks of COVID-19 (quarantines, event cancellations among them), sports leagues are dealing with their own coronavirus sports impact.

Read on for the latest on sports and the coronavirus and check back for more updates.

2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics

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On March 24, the IOC and Tokyo Olympics organizers agreed to move the Tokyo Games to 2021. It will mark the first time in history that the start of an Olympics will be delayed to another year.

NFL

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told ESPN that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. According to reports, the NFL draft will proceed as expected in April with current plans calling for “some type of studio setting.”

Premier League

The 2019-20 Premier League season has been postponed until April 30 at the earliest and ‘extended indefinitely.’

2020 Scripps National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been called off because of the coronavirus.

MLS

The suspension of the 2020 MLS season has been extended for the next eight weeks, meaning the season will not resume until May at the earliest.

NHL

The Ottawa Senators announced that an unnamed player on the roster has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

NBA

Kevin Durant one of four Nets who tested positive for coronavirus, with only one of them reportedly showing the symptoms of COVID-19.

Horse Racing

The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby postponed to first Saturday in September, September 5, due to coronavirus concerns.

Tennis

The French Open tennis Grand Slam has been postponed from a May 24 start to September 20-October 4 schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League suspends play until at least April 3 

The Premier League suspended its season until at least April 3 because of the coronavirus outbreak. All other English soccer leagues will do the same.

The League issued the statement on Friday morning:

Following a meeting of Shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: “Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19.

“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”

Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so.

In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Masters has been postponed

The stunning announcement from Augusta National came down Friday morning, about 12 hours after the PGA Tour canceled its flagship event, The Players Championship, and the next three events on the schedule because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Augusta National hopes to play the Masters – and the other amateur events – at a later date this year. —Ryan Lavner

NCAA cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments 

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments became the latest sporting events to get erased from the American sports calendar. The NCAA’s decision to cancel was officially announced on Thursday afternoon. The global world of sports has been flipped upside down the past 24 hours in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

All other remaining winter and spring NCAA championships were also canceled in the NCAA’s decision.

The 2020 NCAA tournament getting canceled is one of the more shocking sports decisions in recent memory. Major League Baseball (1994) and the National Hockey League (2005) have gone seasons without crowning champions. But those were due to work stoppages and labor disagreements. Major sports championships being canceled due to a global pandemic is uncharted territory. It’ll be fascinating to see what comes next in college basketball. — Scott Phillips

NASCAR postpones Atlanta, Homestead races

NASCAR announced Friday that it has postponed this weekend’s races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s races at Homestead-Miami Speedway because of COVID-19.

NASCAR stated: “NASCAR has decided to postpone the race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. We believe this decision is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, officials and everyone associated with our sport. We will continue to monitor this dynamic situation as we assess future race events.” —Dustin Long

NHL decides to ‘pause’ regular season due to coronavirus

The league made this announcement on Thursday after the NBA decided to suspend its own season on Wednesday. Initially, it looked like teams would play in arenas without fans (starting with the Blue Jackets and Sharks). Instead, they’re hitting the pause button.

At this time, it’s unclear when the NHL season may resume. It’s possible that the NHL would jump right to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after things are no longer on hold, and there’s also a scenario where the Stanley Cup isn’t awarded at all for the 2019-20 season. Would play resume, but still not for fans?

Plenty of questions swirl around the season being suspended. Could this process disrupt the 2020 NHL Draft and/or combine and other activities? Pierre LeBrun speculated on TSN that a draft could theoretically be held via telephone.

Long story short, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. One thing we know for sure, though, is that the NHL did indeed put its 2019-20 season on hold in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. — James O’Brien

NFL cancels its annual meeting

In a move that is surprising only in that it took so long for it to happen, the NFL has canceled its annual meeting.

The yearly get-together, scheduled this year for The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, consists of various sessions that ultimately produce rule changes for the coming year. The league has delayed possible rule changes and other agenda items until the next meeting, set for May 19-20. — Mike Florio

Major League Baseball to ‘suspend baseball operations indefinitely’

Major League Baseball has decided to “suspend baseball operations indefinitely” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means it will suspend spring training, effective tomorrow, and will almost certainly delay to the start of the 2020 regular season. The decision was made on a conference call which concluded moments ago. An official announcement is expected to come shortly.

The move comes after the NBA, NHL, and Major League Soccer all suspended their in-progress seasons and after multiple major college basketball conferences canceled their conference tournaments. It also comes in the wake of multiple mayors and governors either recommending the cancelation of public gatherings or issuing outright bans on them, including professional sporting events. — Craig Calcaterra

ATP, ITF tennis tours halted 6 weeks due to coronavirus

The ATP suspended all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the WTA said Thursday it was calling off one event in April and would decide on any further changes to the women’s tour schedule within a week.

After the men’s tour said it would halt ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour competition until late April, WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder told The Associated Press the women’s tour was not immediately prepared to do the same.

“At this point in time,” Binder wrote in an email, “we are not looking to put in a 6 week suspension.” — AP

ACC suspends all athletics activities, including spring football practice

The ACC became the latest — and so far the most powerful — to suspend all athletic events on their campuses in order to combat the spreading Coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the United States and the world.

While others Power Five conferences like the SEC and Pac-12 have taken steps to cancel or postpone spring sporting events, the ACC took the extra step of ensuring practices and other gatherings will be suspended as well. — Bryan Fischer

Major conferences cancel their basketball tournaments

Most of college basketball’s major conference tournaments that were scheduled to be played have been cancelled.

The American, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and the SEC all announced they won’t be playing events. The leagues made the decision within the final hour before tips were scheduled to begin this afternoon.  The Big East played the first half of its quarterfinal matchup between Creighton and St. John’s and cancelled the tournament at halftime.

With the NCAA banning fans from the 2020 men’s and women’s NCAA tournament yesterday, it set in motion changes across the sport. — Rob Dauster

NFL has “no plans” to move start of league year

Via Adam Schefter of ESPN, the NFL has “no plans” to move the start of the league year. This means that free agency will begin as scheduled on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, and that as a practical matter free agency will start at 12:00 p.m. ET on Monday, when teams may begin making offers and reaching agreements in principle with impending free agents.

The key phrase is “no plans.” The league used that same phrase a week ago, regarding the potential adjustment of the franchise-tag deadline. And then the league adjusted the franchise-tag deadline.

NASCAR to race at Atlanta, Homestead without fans

NASCAR announced Thursday that upcoming races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway will be held without fans.

NASCAR stated: “At this time, NASCAR will hold its race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race. We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.” — Dustin Long

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg games have been postponed

UEFA have confirmed that two UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg games have been postponed due to coronavirus.

Man City v. Real Madrid and Juventus v. Lyon will not take place next week in Manchester and Turin respectively as players from both Real and Juve have been placed in self-isolation.

Real Madrid players and staff have been placed in self-isolation for 15 days due to fears over coronavirus as a player on Real’s basketball team tested positive for coronavirus and therefore the entire soccer team could have come into contact at team venues.

Notre Dame stops all recruiting, postpones spring practice due to Coronavirus

Add Notre Dame to the list of schools who are halting football activities in the wake of the growing Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released via Brian Kelly’s twitter account on Thursday afternoon, the Irish confirmed they would be suspending any recruiting on campus until further notice and have asked the current to remain at home or away from campus while on spring break.

The university has already announced they were moving classes online going forward and away from campus through at least the Easter holiday. Notre Dame also extended spring break through March 20. — Bryan Fischer

PGA Tour will continue without fans, beginning Friday through Texas Open

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced on Thursday that the Tour would continue to host tournaments, but not allow fans to attend, beginning on Friday.

The fan ban, which is in relation to coronavirus concerns, will continue through the Valero Texas Open, the event prior to the Masters Tournament.

Monahan also announced that the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship will be postponed. The event was to be contested March 26-29 in the Dominican Republic.

USMNT, USWNT cancel upcoming games

Shortly after Major League Soccer announced that the 2020 season will be suspended for at least 30 days, U.S. Soccer released a statement confirming national team games were called off for both the USMNT and USWNT.

Gregg Berhalter’s side were due to play away to the Netherlands and Wales on Mar. 26 and 30 respectively but both friendlies will not go ahead due to the situation in Europe.

USWNT games against Australia and Brazil, scheduled for April 10 in Sandy, Utah and April 14 in San Jose California have also been called off.

MLS season suspended due to coronavirus

MLS games across the U.S. and Canada will be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The suspension will be for 30 days.

Major League Soccer have joined the NBA in postponing the season on the coronavirus outbreak as the COVID-19 virus has now been deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). — Joe Prince-Wright

Report: Donovan Mitchell tests positive for coronavirus

Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

THE PLAYER WHO WANTONLY DEFIED THE NBA’S MEASURES FOR CURBING CORONAVIRUS TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS.

That was a big warning signing about how far this might have spread within the league. Now, Gobert’s Jazz teammate, Donovan Mitchell, has also tested positive for coronavirus. — Dan Feldman

IMSA postpones 12 Hours of Sebring to November

In a statement, IMSA said: “IMSA has announced the postponement of the Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend, originally scheduled for March 18-21, due to the recent United States ban on travel from Europe, which will prevent a number of drivers, teams, and key personnel from participation.”

The Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend has been rescheduled for Nov. 11-14, and will now serve as the season finale for the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the sanctioning body added. Also to be run on that weekend is the rescheduled IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge season-ending races. — Jerry Bonkowski

Leicester: Players showing coronavirus symptoms

Leicester City have confirmed that three unnamed players are in self-isolation after showing symptoms of coronavirus.

These players are the first in the Premier League to have been mentioned as showing symptoms of COVID-19 but it has been reported they are showing symptoms and are yet to be tested. — Joe Prince-Wright

Real Madrid players in isolation, La Liga suspended

All La Liga games have been suspended for the next two matchweeks, at least, as Real Madrid players and staff have been placed in self-isolation for 15 days due to fears over coronavirus

A player on Real’s basketball team has tested positive for coronavirus and therefore the entire soccer team could have come into contact at team venues.

Previously La Liga had decided to keep games going and across the next two matchweeks would be played behind closed doors but this situation with Real Madrid has forced them to put the league in lockdown. — Joe Prince-Wright

NBA suspends season indefinitely after player tests positive for coronavirus

An hour after the Jazz-Thunder game was called off in Oklahoma City, the NBA has announced they will suspend the season indefinitely after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Earlier in the day, Gobert had ignored guidelines from the NBA about staying 6-8 feet away from media, making a point of touching every reporter’s recorder.

Gobert was later ruled out due to illness, and not long after, the team’s doctor ran onto the court and spoke with officials moments before tipoff.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the NBA said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.” — Dan Feldman

NASCAR announces procedural changes due to coronavirus

NASCAR announced Wednesday a series of changes at the track because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The changes will take place this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which will host the Cup, Xfinity and Gander and RV Outdoors Truck Series and remain in effect indefinitely.

Among the changes:

NASCAR will hold driver/crew chief meetings in open air locations and will limit the meeting to drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and select officials and dignitaries.

Driver appearances should be structured to ensure that drivers are visible to fans in an open-air setting, such as Q&A sessions.

NASCAR will provide a 6-foot buffer around the grid and driver introduction stage.

The NCAA tournaments will be played without fans

The news became official in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.

“I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement, “including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.”

The COVID-19 Advisory Panel put in place by the NCAA also released a statement on the matter, saying that they “recognize the fluidity” of the situation and they “recommend against sporting events open to the public.” — Rob Dauster

World figure skating championships canceled

The world figure skating championships, scheduled for next week in Montreal, will not be held due to the coronavirus.

“With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Skate Canada and the International Skating Union (ISU), were informed today by the Government of Quebec that they have cancelled the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2020,” Skate Canada said in an email statement. “Any fan who has purchased tickets directly from the official ticket provider Evenko will receive details on the refund process in due course.”

The ISU left open the possibility of scheduling world championships this fall. — OlympicTalk

Final women’s Alpine World Cup races canceled, spoiling Mikaela Shiffrin’s planned return

The international ski federation (FIS) announced plans to hold the races without spectators, largely rendering moot Shiffrin’s statement that she would limit interactions with fans and media to maintain her privacy and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Shortly thereafter, FIS announced that the races wouldn’t be held at all.

“We are so sorry that we have to cancel the competitions that we have prepared for for so long,” said World Cup manager Fredrik Broman. “The current situation give us no other option than to cancel.”

A tweet from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team said the races had been canceled “after new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden.” — Beau Dure

Warriors to host game without fans

The Warriors are scheduled to play the Nets Thursday night at Chase Center and that appears to be the first NBA game played without a crowd due to the coronavirus. The Warriors have confirmed the news.

The Warriors aren’t the only team potentially facing these challenges. Tuesday, Ohio governor Mike DeWine requested there be a pause in mass indoor gatherings to watch sporting events, which would impact the Cavaliers when they return from their current road trip. The mayor of Washington, D.C., made the same request, as did the mayor of Houston. Other cities and states are expected to follow suit.

The idea of pausing the league is not off the table. — Kurt Helin

San Francisco bans gatherings of 1,000 or more people, sporting events included

The Giants have canceled their March 24 exhibition game with the Oakland Athletics in San Francisco.

They open their home schedule on April 3 against the Dodgers and play their first six regular season games on the road in Los Angeles and Arizona. – Bill Baer

Expert says sporting events should not be held in front of crowds

Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases division at the National Institutes of Health, testified in front of Congress today about the spread of COVID-19.

Fauci said this: “We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”

Manchester City v. Arsenal postponed

After several Arsenal players made contact with Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who has contracted Coronavirus, the March 11 Premier League match between Man City and Arsenal has been postponed. The fixture, which was set to begin on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, had already been rescheduled due to the FA Cup and no new date has been announced yet.

“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low,” Arsenal said in a statement. “However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.”

The Arsenal players were in contact with Marinakis 13 days ago, so their self-isolation is almost up. — Nicholas Mendola

Ivy League cancels tournament without playing any games

The Ivy League is cancelling their conference tournament due to the spread of coronavirus, the conference announced on Tuesday morning.

“We understand and share the disappointment with student-athletes, coaches and fans who will not be able to participate in these tournaments,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said. “Regrettably, the information and recommendations presented to us from public health authorities and medical professionals have convinced us that this is the most prudent decision.”

Yale, the league’s regular season men’s champion, will be heading to the men’s NCAA tournament. Harvard, Penn and Brown will see their season come to an end.

Princeton will receive the automatic bid to the women’s NCAA tournament. — Rob Dauster

NFL league meetings, draft “remain in place” for now

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the United States has led to the cancellation of events like the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California in recent days, but the NFL has not altered its plans for two upcoming events at this point.

The first of those events is the league meetings scheduled for March 29 – April 1 in Palm Beach Florida and the second is the draft in Las Vegas from April 23-25. League spokesman Brian McCarthy said, via Adam Schefter of ESPN, that plans for both of those events to go forward “remain in place” for now. – Josh Alper

NBA will limit locker room access

Effective on Tuesday, the NBA will restrict locker room access to players and essential team personnel only.

The current NBA policy allows media into locker rooms both pre- and postgame. Most players do their game-day interviews in the locker room area. This process often involves many media members crowded around a single player for an interview. There are often invited guests in the locker rooms as well.

In an attempt to try and keep players, coaches and staff as healthy as possible, the NBA will limit access and attempt to control the crowding around players and coaches. This means more interviews are likely to conducted in interview rooms with a podium setting, similar to the NBA playoffs. — Keith Smith

MLB limits access ahead of season openers

Major League Baseball followed suit with the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer to limit access to its locker rooms.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that MLB will monitor local markets and will consider its options if health authorities recommend games not to be played. A potential option is for teams to play games at other locations.

Baseball players will be available in “press conference settings” as well as outside the clubhouse, but will be asked to conform to the CDC’s recommendation of keeping a six-foot distance from reporters, per Passan.

Sharks contemplating home options

The San Jose Sharks must mull over playing home games in front of an empty arena, or other options, as Santa Clara announced a ban of large events following the first coronavirus-related death in the area.

Santa Clara County officials announced that there will be a ban regarding meetings of people of 1,000 or more. It’s a three-week ban scheduled to go into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

Such a ban would affect the Sharks … eventually, as their next home game at the SAP Center takes place on March 17. (San Jose is beginning a four-game road trip in Chicago on Wednesday [March 11].) — James O’Brien

European soccer leagues adjusting schedules, postponing games

France has issued Europe’s next strongest response to the increased coronavirus sports fears as Ligue 1 on Monday has moved to limit all league games through mid-April to 1,000 fans in attendance. Meanwhile, Man United will play in an empty stadium at LASK Linz in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 on Thursday due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. — Kyle Bonn

More MotoGP schedule adjustments

MotoGP announced Tuesday morning that its April 5 race in Austin, Texas, has been rescheduled to November because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas will be moved to Nov. 13-15. The season finale at Valencia, Spain, will be moved a week later to Nov. 20-22 as a result of the Austin reschedulement.

The race at Circuit of the Americas becomes the third MotoGP event to be affected this season. The premier class canceled its season opener at Qatar because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The season’s second race in Thailand also has been postponed indefinitely. — Nate Ryan

Olympic flame lighting ceremony to be held without spectators

Greece’s Olympic committee made the decision after a Monday meeting, taking into account the coronavirus situation in Greece.

The flame lighting ceremony, always held in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, will be attended by 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, according to a press release. — Nick Zaccardi

Serie A schedule emerges after coronavirus outbreak

The next two rounds of the Italian soccer schedule have been pushed back by a week due to the coronavirus outbreak, the league announced on Friday

The governing body of Serie A announced the changes Friday, coming on the heels of other coronavirus sports issues.

On Thursday, it was decided that the matches postponed last weekend – including the potential title decider between Juventus and Inter Milan – would be played this weekend. — Associated Press

Cincinnati announces first FBS spring game cancellation due to coronavirus

Just hours after the governor of Ohio released recommendations for handling sporting events in the wake of coronavirus, Cincinnati football canceled its annual spring football game, making it the first FBS program to cancel a spring game because of coronavirus.

The game was scheduled for April 10, and its cancellation is part of a broader plan to limit outdoor events across the university to crowds of 150 spectators or less until May 1. As of now, Cincinnati’s spring practice will continue as previously scheduled. Ohio State, which is located less than two hours away from Cincinnati, is still scheduled to play its spring game on April 11. — John Taylor

Coronavirus in sports: 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021; NFL draft, season updates originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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