March 12: Major League Soccer is also suspending its season until further notice, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated reports (via Twitter). The Association of Tennis Professionals has also announced a six-week suspension of the men’s professional tour.
Meanwhile, the NHL has canceled practice for teams and is readying a statement on the status of the current season. Gavin Lee will be tracking all of the coverage as pertains to the National Hockey League over at ProHockeyRumors.com.
March 11: In a stunning announcement that is sure to put pressure on other sports leagues, the NBA has suspended its season indefinitely after a Utah Jazz player — reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania to be center Rudy Gobert — has tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL has also issued a statement which indicates that it is “continuing to consult with medical experts” and “evaluating the options.” A more detailed update can be expected tomorrow, per the announcement.
Earlier today, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd examined the potential ways in which the coronavirus — which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic this afternoon — could impact the upcoming Major League Baseball season. The day has become increasingly surreal in the hours since that writing. Multiple Major League teams — the Athletics, Mariners and Giants — have issued statements indicating that they’ll explore alternatives to playing scheduled exhibition and regular-season games at their home stadiums. And the NCAA made the even more eye-opening announcement that this year’s March Madness tournament will be played in front of empty stadiums, with only “limited family” and “essential staff” permitted to be in attendance.
It’s not yet clear precisely how Major League Baseball will act, but it’s increasingly evident that the season won’t be played out in conventional fashion. Some have suggested relocating regular-season games to facilities that aren’t in major areas of risk, although that clearly presents its own problems; hosting regular-season games at neutral locales would only seem to encourage fans from higher-risk regions to travel to said neutral locations (thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus).
Already today, the Alameda County Department of Public Health has announced its recommendation that events or gatherings of 1,000-plus people be canceled or postponed — thus prompting the Athletics’ statement. Washington state governor Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties, including King County, where the Mariners’ T-Mobile Park is located.
As governmental bodies continue to take action and as other major sporting leagues take or consider drastic actions in an effort to curb the spreading of the virus, pressure will surely mount on Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred to pursue similar measures. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported earlier tonight that a league-wide conference call had been scheduled for Friday, but that was prior to the NBA’s announcement and the statement from the NHL. Given the action from two in-season major sports, it seems likelier that Manfred’s office and the MLBPA will address the public sooner than later.