The National Basketball Association (NBA) dramatically announced March 11 that it was suspending its 2019-20 season after one of its star players tested positive for Coronavirus. The league made the sweeping move as Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert and another player were listed as out for that evening’s game at the Oklahoma City Thunder due to “illness.”
Fans were told by a public address announcer to exit the arena “due to unforeseen circumstances.” “You are all safe,” the announcer said, NBC News reports, instructing them to leave “in an orderly fashion.” The Utah bench area could be seen being sanitized as the arena was vacated. It was later confirmed that Gobert had tested “preliminary positive” for the virus.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of Wednesday’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in an official statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Before the suspension of the season was announced, the Golden State Warriors had already decided to bar fans from its March 12 home game vs. the Brooklyn Nets in order to comply with an order from the city of San Francisco to ban large events of over 1,000 people.
Also on March 11, the NCAA announced that its annual men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments would be held without fans due to the Coronavirus outbreak. “March Madness” is an annual event that has captured the imaginations of sports fans across the nation for decades.
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel,” NCAA president Mark Emmert stated in a release. “Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.”
For the NBA, the Coronavirus is the second calamity involving China to severely dent its financial bottom line this season. In October, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for freedom protesters in Hong Kong, enraging the communist Chinese regime. The league drew withering criticism and threats of mass boycotts by seeking to appease the angry Chinese in an effort to safeguard its growing business ventures in the nation. “We apologize,” Rockets superstar guard James Harden said in a public act of contrition. “You know, we love China. We love playing there … they show us the most important love.”
Other industries are facing a growing economic nightmare over the Coronavirus outbreak as well. JetBlue Airlines CEO Robin Hayes, appearing on “CBS This Morning” on March 11, said the impact of the health scare on the airline industry could prove “probably worse than” the 9/11 attacks. “This is the sort of event in the airline industry we only tend to see about once every ten years,” Hayes declared.
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