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COVID-19 and Sports Update: Significant TV Impact, NFL Staying Home, Responding to Positive Tests, More

Chicago Cubs

Like the cases and the testing and the mortality rates, themselves, the general sense of optimism and pessimism about life in general does not proceed in any kind of obviously linear way. It’s tough to even pin down a trend, to be honest. Sometimes it’s high, sometimes it’s low. Sometimes it feels like things are going to get so much worse, sometimes it feels like things are trending in a good direction.

Bubbles Without Families

As the NBA considers “bubble” concepts for its return, one thing it will not consider is doing so in conjunction with a family-free quarantine:

We understand and accept that having families with players at a bubble location (i.e., all games in one place) would necessarily increase the risk of an outbreak within the bubble, but I also do think there has to be a line somewhere. For me, it’s right there at the idea of asking players to quarantine away from their families. If players unanimously wanted to do it, that would be one thing. But I just don’t think it would be right for the league to demand it, and I also think – just from a pragmatic perspective – it would be a PR nightmare if the league *did* demand it. I just don’t think this works (for the NBA or any of the other leagues) if you’re not getting total buy-in from the players, and that means ensuring they are safe and mentally OK.

My guess is that any plan that comes to fruition in any of the sports will either involve players being able to be with families, or the period of isolation being 100% certain and relatively short.

The TV Impact of Ending Seasons Early

Good lord. So, I knew that there would be implications for local TV deals if the NBA and/or NHL could not complete their regular seasons, but I figured it would be the clawback of some money already paid out, not the kind of draconian penalties that are discussed here:

It sounds like there isn’t certainty that this is the case, but reportedly, SOME local contracts have some severe penalties in place if a regular season is not completed and broadcast: the contract rolls over to the next year, which could mean almost TOTAL LOSS of local TV revenue the next year.

We’ve talked about the chained risk that RSNs face from cable providers (if the channels don’t provide live sports content, cable providers might try to cancel their carriage deals), and this is just another link in the chain. I still think the sides – the many, many sides – would negotiate/litigate financial outcomes, but these reports suggest most of the leverage might wind up on the side of the RSNs and the cable providers, rather than the leagues and teams. Thus, some surprisingly extreme urgency to finish up regular seasons that have very little left in them.

NFL Stays Home

The NFL has already made one scheduling change for the season ahead:

It’s certainly possible, likely even, that the NFL would be able to stage a game in the UK later this year. But the logistics and costs that go into planning and preparing for it would make for a significant risk if you wind up not being able to do it. So, it gets cancelled now to mitigate some of that risk. Simple enough, but a bummer for the league, I’m sure.

Kids Playing Sports in the COVID-19 Era

We focus on professional sports here, obviously, but the ability to get kids playing sports again – safely – is at least as important in the long-term. Some of the early thoughts on how that can happen:

The super short version is that it all looks very familiar to you: testing, tracking, small groups, etc.

Positive Tests

Our first indication of how sports teams might proceed in the face of positive tests after returning to action:

Basically, with hygiene and testing and quarantining protocols in place, the team/league do not feel they have to shut down training because of some positive tests. I suppose that’s where most sports want (need?) to be – some people are going to test positive eventually – but it will certainly be met with scrutiny, especially if even more players/personnel test positive thereafter.

Baseball in Asia

As discussed this morning, the KBO in South Korea starts its regular season tonight, without fans, though it’s possible they will come eventually.

That tracks with Taiwan, where baseball started last month, and now fans are very slowly going to start coming back:

As for South Korea, your early TV schedule at ESPN:



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.