By Bruce Haring – Deadline Hollywood
The National Basketball Association announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled.
The affected player was not in the arena and was not identified by the league, but ESPN reported that it is Rudy Gobert. He is a French player who also plays on France’s national team in international competitions. The center is a 7-foot-1 star for Utah.
The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic, the league statement said.
The league thus becomes the first major sports league in North America to suspend its games during the pandemic. It puts added pressure on Major League Baseball, the NCAA, the XFL, the NHL and other arena-level teams to consider whether their added risk is worth it. The NCAA has already decided to play its games without any attendance beyond players, coaches and their families watching, barring the sellout crowds that normally would be expected.
The NHL issued a statement Wednesday night saying it “is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options.” The league added, “We expect to have a further update tomorrow.”
At Wednesday’s Oklahoma-Utah game in Oklahoma City, the game was postponed after the teams had been announced. But officials huddled and the teams were set back to their lockerrooms. The arena announcer then said the game was cancelled because of “unforeseen circumstances.” The cancellation came about 35 minutes after the scheduled tip-off.
The league has not announced whether season ticket-holders will be refunded for any games missed. Studies have shown the NBA has a major economic impact on the league’s host cities, particularly during playoff events. The revenue shortfall will now have to be made up in other ways.
Major League Baseball has already barred the media from its locker rooms in an effort to limit potential exposure to its players, coaches and staffers.
The NFL draft is scheduled for Las Vegas in April, and already there are rumblings that perhaps the draft shouldn’t be a large-scale public event, as it has been in the past. Las Vegas is expecting upwards of 60,000 people to attend the draft’s first day, which are being held in front of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel.