It is currently May and for the last 2 months Americans have generally stayed at home under strict stay at home orders. This included star athletes who had their respective professional sports season canceled. No live sports have meant that targeted sports networks, like NFL Network, NBA TV, and MLB Network, have been showing retro games from the past. Networks that base their profit on live sports like ESPN have shown documentaries about past greats like Michael Jordan’s story in The Last Dance.
Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert got COVID – 19 and single-handedly managed to suspend the NBA season indefinitely. To most Americans this represented that COVID – 19 was serious. That same day, when the season was still in progress the Golden State Warriors announced that they would be playing their game against the Brooklyn Nets the next day without fans. This was based on an executive order signed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed. This caused a little controversy. Speculation about playing without fans was swirling around the league. Superstar Lebron James of the prominent Los Angles Lakers publicly responded saying“I ain’t playing if there are no fans”. This put the league in a critical position. Since then James has backed off his position.
The season has been suspended, but the NBA is trying to bring the season back. In the past week, the NBA has allowed players to re-enter team practice facilities under strict conditions. There can only be 4 players at a time with coaches not allowed to assist. This is still an improvement over the other choice of not being able to practice. Most NBA players live in an area where they don’t have access to hoops or personal gyms. The NBA has also suggested reopening the season in mid-july playing in bubble cities. This is where all players in the league stay in one location and are separated from outside factors. Bubble cities are a way to contain the spread of COVID – 19. It resumes the league but it is also difficult to contain essential staff supporting the players like restaurant workers and hotel maids among others. While players do want to resume the season, Players are less inclined to participate because this would also mean leaving their family for months.
Baseball players have also been poorly affected by COVID – 19 as their season had not even had the opportunity to start yet. A declining sport, not playing a season will poorly affect their revenue stream. Recently, a plan got introduced by the MLB to start the league while ensuring players remain safe. This plan asks for more frequent testing, 50 players on the roster instead of 25, spread out locker rooms, and a shortened season from 162 games to 82 games. MLB Divisions will also be split up into 3 groups of 10 instead of 2 groups of 15.
There are monetary concerns with this plan. MLB is the only major sport that does not have a salary cap. A salary cap creates an equal limit for how much money teams are allowed to spend in a year for all of their players. There is no minimum or maximum owners have to pay for their players. Owners, at this time, are asking players to adopt a Pro-Rated Salary. In addition, players are losing out on even more money due to the lack of revenue. Owners and players have had a 50 – 50 split in revenue. Revenue comes from physical fans, television contracts, and merchandise. With no fans, no revenue is expected to come and players will lose more money. A report from the owners claims that for every game played without fans, owners are going to lose $640,000. Blake Snell, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays is ambivalent to the idea of this. On social media, he said “Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof.” Snell is not taking less money and putting him self at risk for this deadly disease. The MLB players union is looking to resolve this problem for the players, as they fight the MLB for a higher salary. The season, with the current plan, is expected to resume July 2nd.
Finally, the NFL has accomplished the most during this crisis. They had entered the offseason right in time when the crisis started. The NFL hosted its annual draft and conducted their release of the 2020 schedule – assuming it is played. The NFL draft this year was hosted via zoom successfully raised money for charity. Over the course of 3 days, the NFL raised 7 Million for charities like the Salvation Army and Meals on Wheels. But, the NFL will also get financial problems out of this crisis. Sources speculate that the NFL salary cap is set to decrease for the following season. The NFL salary cap is set through revenue from contracts, television deals, and fan purchases. This could create problems for NFL teams in the future. With a shortage of money, expensive veteran players can be replaced by cheap rookie players.
Sports leagues have been hard hit by this pandemic and the changes that have to be adopted during this time will affect the future.