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How the Coronavirus Is Disrupting Sports


Sports around the world continued to be disrupted, and even halted, by the spread of the coronavirus.

Three major professional leagues have paused their seasons, and numerous college conferences canceled their basketball tournaments, in some cases after they had begun.

The N.B.A. season was suspended after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. A second Jazz player, Donovan Mitchell, later tested positive as well.

The N.H.L. season was suspended indefinitely Thursday afternoon. The league noted it shared many facilities with the N.B.A.

The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conferences all canceled their tournaments. Other leagues followed suit. The first game of the Big East tournament quarterfinals tipped off as scheduled at noon Thursday at Madison Square Garden, but the tournament was canceled at halftime, with St. John’s leading Creighton, 38-35.

The main events in college basketball, the N.C.A.A. tournaments for men and women, were still expected to be played, but without spectators.

And Major League Soccer suspended its season for 30 days on Thursday.

Here’s where things stand as of Thursday:

Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz is now the second N.B.A. player known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The N.B.A. suspended its season after the first, another Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the virus shortly before tipoff of a game Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Players for both teams were called back into the locker room and the game was canceled.

“As a follow-up to yesterday’s positive Covid-19 test, Oklahoma health officials tested all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party, confirming one additional positive outcome for a Jazz player,” the Jazz said in a statement. Mitchell’s diagnosis was first reported by ESPN.

“Thanks to everyone who has been reaching out since hearing the news about my positive test,” Mitchell wrote on Instagram.

The N.C.A.A. will allow only essential staff and family at its national tournament games, normally the highlight of the college basketball season.

That tournament may not include one of its marquee teams, Duke, which announced it would suspend all sports practices and games for the foreseeable future.

The 16-team team College Basketball Invitational, another postseason tournament, will not be played this year because of the outbreak.

The top European basketball competition, Euroleague, suspended all games in Italy until April 11 after several teams expressed a reluctance to play there.

The Miami Open, one of the top tennis tournaments in the country, was canceled on Thursday as the city’s mayor announced a suspension of large events, including a NASCAR race and major events at American Airlines Arena, the home of the N.B.A.’s Miami Heat.

The Miami Open was scheduled to run March 23 to April 5, with top players including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and the Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. Its cancellation comes after the BNP Paribas Open, one of the world’s leading tennis tournaments, was also canceled because of the spread of coronavirus.

Soon after, the governing body of men’s tennis suspended tour events for six weeks, until April 27.

The Fed Cup finals, scheduled for Budapest in April, have been postponed.

Besides the suspension of M.L.S., United States men’s and women’s team friendlies in March and April have been canceled.

Games across Europe and other parts of the world are being played without spectators or postponed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Two Champions League games next Tuesday, Manchester City-Real Madrid and Juventus-Lyon, were postponed. A player on Juventus, Daniele Rugani, tested positive for the virus.

The Manchester City-Arsenal match on Wednesday became the first Premier League game postponed. Arsenal had played Olympiakos two weeks ago and some players and staff members had contact with Evangelos Marinakis, the Greek owner of Olympiakos, who has tested positive for the virus.

Spain suspended its top two divisions for at least two weeks. The star-studded Real Madrid team is in quarantine after a player for the club’s basketball team tested positive.

France will bar spectators at all games in the top two divisions until April 15. The League Cup final between P.S.G. and Lyon, originally scheduled for April 4, has been postponed indefinitely.

Portugal will play league games without fans for at least two weeks and Belgium for a week. All weekend games in the Bundesliga in Germany will be played without fans, a first for the league.

In Japan, J League games have been postponed. In China, the Super League schedule has not yet begun, with no date for a return set, as much of the country is under virtual lockdown.

All World Cup qualifying games in Asia were postponed until the fall. The Slovakia-Ireland playoff for Euro 2020 will be played without fans.

Following the lead of other major sports leagues in the United States, the National Hockey League announced Thursday that it was pausing its season, effective immediately. The N.H.L. did not indicate how long the stoppage would last or when it would try to begin play again, saying only that the league’s goal was “to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent.”

Most N.H.L. teams have about a dozen games left in the regular season, with the Stanley Cup playoffs scheduled to begin in about a month. The N.H.L. had tried to keep its schedule intact — including planning to play some games without fans in areas with bans against large public gatherings — and no hockey player is known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

But after Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive Wednesday night and the N.B.A. canceled its season, the N.H.L. said it was forced to halt theirs. “Given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the N.H.L. community would test positive at some point,” the league said in a statement, “it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”

The PGA Tour will proceed, but will do so without fans at any event. An event set for the Dominican Republic later this month will be postponed.

President Trump added his voice to the conversation on Thursday, suggesting that the Games in Tokyo should be postponed for a year rather than being held without spectators. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, has insisted that the Games are on schedule to begin in late July, though a member of Japan’s Olympic organizing committee said Tuesday that postponing the Games would be discussed.

Mr. Trump’s comments came during a news briefing at the White House, where he discussed numerous measures his administration and others were taking to combat the spread of the coronavirus. “Maybe they postpone it for a year,” Mr. Trump said “Maybe that’s not possible.”

Regardless, he said he preferred postponing the Games to holding the events with no spectators. Postponing the Olympics would wreak havoc with the sports calendar for the summer of 2021, which is set years ahead of time and includes world championship competitions in several major sports.

The Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece on Thursday was held without spectators.

The France-Ireland game set for this weekend in Paris has been postponed, the third Six Nations match to be put on hold. For now, the last remaining match for the weekend, Wales-Scotland, will be played as scheduled.

The Seattle Mariners said they were working on alternative plans for their six home games scheduled for March, in accordance with a ban on large group events in the area, which was announced Wednesday. The ban will last at least until the end of March.

Japan has postponed the start of its baseball season, scheduled for March 20, until April.

The New York City Half Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, has been canceled. The Paris Marathon has been delayed from April to October. The Barcelona Marathon has also been postponed until October. The Rome Marathon on March 29 has been canceled.

The World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, scheduled to run March 18 to 22, have been canceled. The event was expected to feature about 200 skaters from more than 50 countries.

The women’s world ice hockey championship, to be played in Canada beginning March 31, has been canceled. The Alpine World Cup finals, scheduled to begin March 18 in Italy, have been canceled. The last three races of the women’s skiing World Cup, to be held in Sweden, were canceled.

A cross-country World Cup race this weekend in Minneapolis was canceled.

The McLaren team pulled out of the Formula One season opener in Australia later this month after a team member tested positive. The race in China, scheduled for April, was previously postponed.

Matt Futterman, Sopan Deb, Kevin Draper and Marc Stein contributed reporting.



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