Capitals, Wizards to Play in Defiance of Washington, D.C. Appeal

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics said it plans to proceed with their games as scheduled, defying a recommendation from the city’s Department of Health to cancel “non-essential mass gatherings” amid concerns about the coronavirus.

“At the current direction of the NBA and NHL, our games will go on as scheduled and be open to spectators,” Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment said in a statement.

The decision to play comes as the NCAA announced the league would be conducting upcoming championship events, including Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only “essential staff and limited family attendance.”

Earlier Wednesday, the District of Columbia’s Department of Health urged the postponement of events and “mass gatherings” of 1,000 or more people through March 31.

“We also recommend that any social, cultural, or entertainment events where large crowds are anticipated be reconsidered by the organizer,” the agency said in a statement.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment said concerts and events at its Capital One Arena would go on as scheduled “at the direction of their respective promoters.” The company owns the National Basketball Association’s Wizards; the Mystics, a team in the Women’s National Basketball Association; and the National Hockey League’s Capitals.

The announcement came as sports teams and leagues across the country are starting to come to terms with disruptions to their schedules. The NBA’s Golden State Warriors in San Francisco will start playing games without fans. And baseball’s Seattle Mariners are looking to move games in the early part of their season.

A spokeswoman for Major League Baseball’s World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, who are set to play their home opener on April 2, said the team had yet to make a decision on whether to follow the Health Department’s recommendation.

The number of coronavirus cases in the city has risen to 10, with the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. now exceeding 1,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergyand Infectious Diseases, said at a House hearing Wednesday that large gatherings such as sporting events should be avoided.

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” he said.“If that means not having any people in the audience when theNBA plays, so be it.”

--With assistance from Eben Novy-Williams.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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