Day 6

COVID-19 has shut down professional sports. What does that mean for the leagues, athletes and fans?

This week, within a 24-hour period, the NBA, NHL and MLB all suspended their seasons out of concern for the spread of COVID-19. Sportswriter Wes Goldberg tells us what this means for the leagues and the many people teams and stadiums employ.

Stadium staff, including ushers and vendors, are now also off the job

Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (9) guards against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the first half during an NBA basketball game Monday, March 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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NBA beat writer Wes Goldberg knew the league was in a precarious position when it came to suspending the season.

"If one basketball player gets [the coronavirus], they don't have a choice," he said.

That's why, moments before Wednesday's scheduled tip-off between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder, he was ready to make a prediction.

"I turned to the person next to me and I actually said, 'You know, I think [the season] is going to get cancelled.'"

The game was first delayed, and then postponed after Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive for the virus. Not long after that, the NBA suspended the rest of the season until further notice. 

The ice and spectator seating is empty prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. The NHL, MLB and NBA have suspended their seasons until further notice due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The NBA's season suspension had a ripple effect on the rest of the North American sports world. Within 24 hours, the NHL, MLB and MLS announced they were suspending their seasons too. 

Other leagues, such as the collegiate-level NCAA and the major junior-level Canadian Hockey League, also announced competition-wide suspensions.

"We are seeing so many of these other leagues and events get cancelled because they're coming to the same sort of endpoint that it is safer to do that than to keep going on playing," he said.

'A financial nightmare' for NBA teams

Goldberg says that the league-wide season suspension will be "a financial nightmare" for the NBA's teams. 

"[Golden State Warriors President] Rick Welts guesstimated tens of millions of dollars," he said. "In the NBA, you've only got about 17 games left for a lot of these teams, half of which ... are home games. So they're going to be losing all of that ticket revenue."

Not to be forgotten are stadium crew members, such as independent contractors, ushers, and vendors. Goldberg says these workers, who usually work these positions as a second job and are typically paid per game, will be most affected in the short term.

"For a lot of these people who were planning on that or budgeting that, who had that [as] part of their spending, they no longer have that and they need to reconcile with that."

As for the many sports journalists and reporters like Goldberg, a league-wide suspension means that for the time being they "no longer really write about sports."

"It means that I become a sort of health reporter in a weird way, a business reporter now," he said. 

For the next few weeks, players, officials, fans and media personnel will be forced to adjust with the changing climate. 

"Everybody sort of has to recalibrate their expectations and what it is that they do on a day-to-day basis," he said. "For me ... I'm going to have a lot more time at home, and I'm going to have a lot more time trying to report on this thing that everybody is sort of learning about at the same time."


To hear more from Wes Goldberg, download our podcast or click Listen above.

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