2020 was a year of change in D.C. sports, on and off the field

February Led by quarterback Cardale Jones, the DC Defenders defeated the Seattle Dragons, 31-19 , before an Audi Field crowd of 17,163...



February

Led by quarterback Cardale Jones, the DC Defenders defeated the Seattle Dragons, 31-19, before an Audi Field crowd of 17,163 in the relaunch of the XFL. The league would cancel the remainder of its debut season, shut down operations and file for bankruptcy over the next two months amid the coronavirus pandemic. The beer snake was fun while it lasted.

With a third-period tally against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in Newark on Feb. 22, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin became the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 goals.

“Obviously, when you get closer, you were thinking about it, when it’s going to happen,” Ovechkin said after Washington’s 3-2 loss. “But I knew someday, even if I didn’t score today, we still have 20 games [left] — and one goal, I was good.”

Wizards guard Bradley Beal posted new career highs on consecutive days, with 53 points against the Chicago Bulls and 55 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 23 and 24. In #SoWizards fashion, Washington lost both games.

“I’m a winner, so you can throw those 55 out with the last 53,” Beal said after joining James Harden and Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players to score at least 53 points in consecutive games.

March

On March 12, Morgan State defeated Delaware State in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament in Norfolk. Highlights from the Bears’ win were featured on “SportsCenter.” It would turn out to be the final game of the NCAA Division I college basketball season, as the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments a few hours later.

With the NBA and NHL seasons paused, NBC Sports Washington started broadcasting video game simulations of Wizards and Capitals games.

April

Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, who broke the color barrier for Washington’s NFL franchise in 1962 and later served as a scout and front-office executive for the organization, died April 5 at 84.

Opening Day was delayed along with the Nationals’ World Series banner-raising ceremony. As a substitute, MASN reporter Dan Kolko and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman co-hosted a Zoom video call with more than two dozen coaches and players from Washington’s 2019 championship team and streamed it live on Facebook. Four hours of joyous memories and hi-jinx ensued. Brian Dozier showed up shirtless and danced to “Calma,” and at one point poked fun at the cheating Houston Astros by picking up a trash can and banging it with a wooden spoon.

Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky played to a tie in their EA Sports NHL 20 video game showdown, which was streamed on the Capitals’ Twitch channel and raised more than $40,000 for coronavirus relief efforts.

In the NFL draft, which was held virtually, Washington selected defensive end Chase Young, who starred at DeMatha Catholic High and Ohio State, with the No. 2 overall pick.

May

“The Last Dance,” ESPN’s wildly popular 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan’s career, didn’t touch on His Airness’s two seasons with the Wizards. There were, however, a few minutes devoted to the story of Jordan getting revenge after former Bullets guard LaBradford Smith’s career night in 1993.

D.C.’s first mobile sports gambling platform, GambetDC, launched with terrible odds compared with other mobile sportsbooks, technical issues and few sports to bet on.

June

Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who led the Bullets to their only NBA title in 1978, died June 2 at age 74 of complications from pneumonia.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day, Mystics guard Natasha Cloud wrote an essay for the Players’ Tribune in which she called for an end to silence in the face of racial injustice. On Juneteenth, Cloud, who opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to focus on social justice matters, led a peaceful protest through the streets of D.C. with several teammates and Wizards players, including Beal and John Wall, to address bigotry and police brutality.

“You can’t ignore this anymore,” Cloud said before the event. “Your silence is a knee on our neck. Your neutrality is taking the side of the oppressor.”

July

In interviews with The Post, 15 former employees of the Washington Football Team described their experiences in a workplace where executives berated them and commented inappropriately about their appearances. Larry Michael, the team’s longtime play-by-play voice, director of pro scouting Alex Santos and assistant director of pro scouting Richard Mann II all left the organization after complaints were raised.

The team hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson “to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set new employee standards for the future.” Washington hired former NBC Sports Washington reporter Julie Donaldson to replace Michael as its vice president of media.

On July 23, the Nationals opened the 60-game MLB season with a rain-shortened 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees at fan-less Nationals Park. Anthony S. Fauci threw the ceremonial first pitch. Juan Soto missed the first seven games of the season after receiving what he believed was a false positive test for the coronavirus.

August

In the most 2020 moment of the Nationals’ season, Stephen Strasburg was ejected by home plate umpire Carlos Torres for arguing balls and strikes from the stands at Citi Field.

The Washington Football Team hired Jason Wright, making him the first Black president of an NFL team. The 38-year-old Wright, a former NFL running back, spent the previous seven years as a partner in consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

The Wizards and Capitals returned to action inside bubbles in Orlando and Toronto, respectively. The Wizards went 1-7 without Beal, Wall and Davis Bertans, and missed the playoffs. The Capitals were eliminated by former coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in the first round. Days later, the team fired coach Todd Reirden. Peter Laviolette was hired as Reirden’s replacement in September.

Additional former Washington Football Team employees came forward with new allegations of sexual harassment during their time with the organization. By the end of the month, the NFL had assumed oversight of Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s workplace culture.

The sports world lost another D.C. legend on Aug. 30, when District native John Thompson Jr., who coached Georgetown to the 1984 NCAA title, died at 78.

September

The Washington Football Team opened a new era with a comeback win against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. The defense registered eight sacks, including two by veteran Ryan Kerrigan, who passed Dexter Manley as the franchise’s all-time sack leader.

After starting 19-31 for a second consecutive year, the Nationals failed to qualify for baseball’s expanded playoff field. In the last week of the their lost season, 32-year-old outfielder Yadiel Hernandez became the oldest player in MLB history to hit a walk-off for his first career home run.

October

With his team at the bottom of the table at 2-9-5, Ben Olsen was fired as D.C. United coach on Oct. 8, ending one of the longest coaching tenures in D.C. sports. “It is now time for a change. It is the right move,” Olsen, a former star player for United who was 113-137-84 in the regular season during his 10 years as coach, said in a written statement.

Days after goalie Braden Holtby signed a two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks, the Capitals signed 38-year-old New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year contract. In December, Lundqvist announced that a heart condition will prevent him from joining the team this season.

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith made his improbable return to action nearly two years after he suffered a gruesome leg injury that required 17 surgeries and threatened his life. Smith came on in relief of injured starter Kyle Allen late in the first half of Washington’s 30-10 loss to the Rams.

November

Smith took over as the Washington Football Team’s starter on Nov. 15. A week later, he led Washington to a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. On Thanksgiving, Washington routed the Cowboys, 41-16, at AT&T Stadium behind rookie running back Antonio Gibson’s three touchdowns. With the win, Washington improved to 4-7, good enough to move into first place in the lowly NFC East.

December

On Dec. 2, the Wizards traded Wall and a protected first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. The surprising deal signaled the end of Wall’s injury-marred career in Washington, where he devoted himself to giving back to the people of D.C. off the court since the Wizards made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

On Dec. 28, the Washington Football Team released quarterback Dwayne Haskins, ending his disappointing tenure with the team since it made him the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. The move came one week after Haskins was fined and had his captaincy revoked as punishment for partying maskless, and one day after he was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Carolina Panthers.

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Newsrust: 2020 was a year of change in D.C. sports, on and off the field
2020 was a year of change in D.C. sports, on and off the field
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