The Uncertainty of Sports Leagues Returning


Courtesy of Hannah Wise '21

Groton students are consumers of sports entertainment like millions of other people around the world. Due to the coronavirus, many sports leagues globally have either “shutdown,” “paused,” or “delayed” their seasons. This includes the National Basketball Association, Women’s National Basketball Association, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Women’s Hockey League. In this pandemic, the return of sports leagues is still uncertain.

For the purpose of this article, I am going to focus on the NBA. The NBA has still not made a consensus yet on its return-to-play plan. In the short term, the NBA is exploring the idea of playing at neutral sites with no fans in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These games will be equipped with all the relevant precautions and protocols to make sure the players and employees are safe from the virus. Players will be constantly tested for the virus, and no unauthorized personnel will be allowed to enter the facility. Obviously, whether fans will be returning to the arenas or not is still a very controversial question.

From the players to the analysts to the stadium employees, sports leagues provide millions of jobs across the country. This includes the players and all the employees of sports teams and the employees of their respective television network companies. “I’m very aggressive on encouraging sports teams to start and to operate without fans. This is more an economic calculus for different sports,” stated New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at his press conference on May 19th. 

Sports help the American psyche, create jobs, and fulfill many Americans’ desire for content. Although when sports leagues will return is still ambiguous, many Americans are hoping for its return, including some of America’s leaders. “We need sports in terms of the psyche, the psyche of our country,” said President Trump during an NBC Sports broadcast. 

Sports have become such an important part of American culture, and the lack of it has caused many Americans to crave for its return. In a time of a global pandemic, more than ever are people craving sports entertainment, and the return of televised sports could help quench this thirst. 

Many NBA fans have turned to watching previously televised games again or documentaries that relate to their respective sports. The Last Dance, a documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan’s iconic 1997-98 season from start to finish, dominated the sports world, acquiring 13 million viewers an episode from on-demand viewing. This series, aired on April 19th this year, has racked up record viewership weekend after weekend, indicating that sports fans are truly missing their beloved sports.

Currently, many NBA players are eager to return, and many are doing solo-training in quarantine. Leagues like the NBA have not approved of team training or scrimmages yet, but players have been allowed to do solo work. As of May 27th, NBA players are on the verge of having access to team facilities. When the players do regain access, there will be many restrictions the players must follow. The guidelines would allow no more than four players at a facility at a time.

According to research produced by Italian immunologists, due to strenuous exercise, elite athletes are more likely to inhale virus particles and direct them to the lower areas of the lung. Still, athletes are eager to play. From professional levels like the NBA to high school, the future of sports, especially contact sports, is still quite uncertain. Even if students do return to campus this fall, whether or not contact sports will be played is still questionable.