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What Will Sports Look Like Without Fans?

  • By Lauren
  •  Jul 09, 2020

    From kids soccer to professional football, fans and spectators are an integral part of sports culture and experience. For every goal, point, and home run, there are usually cheers of encouragement and shouts of frustration from the sidelines. For athletes and fans alike, a world of sports without their beloved crowds is hard to imagine. 

    From what many thought would be a short-lived disruption to what has become a seemingly endless and life-changing crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally impacted the livelihood and the economy of sports. Since the NBA and NCAA shut down their seasons in March, sports leagues and events across the country have been at a virtual standstill due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

    In the midst of rising coronavirus cases and increasing debates about the risks of opening up the economy, below is a breakdown of where sports stand and how seasons may look in the coming months. 



    As colleges grapple with how to welcome students back to school for the fall semester, they must also weigh the risks associated with college sports. While the NCAA is still in “wait and see” mode for deciding the future of fall sports, many programs have welcomed athletes back to their facilities for training.

    However, with cases rising across the country and multiple coronavirus outbreaks among varsity sports teams, the outlook for fall sports has once again become grim. This Thursday, The Big Ten announced it will be going to a conference-only season for all fall sports, including football, amid "unprecedented times" during the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, The Ivy League announced it was cancelling all sports for the fall, becoming the first Division I conference to say it will not hold sports this upcoming semester.

     Even if some universities and conferences decide to hold their seasons this coming fall, college sports will still look drastically different. With few to no spectators and shortened schedules, college sports will not have the same vitality that they usually would. 



    The MLB recently announced its plans for a shortened 60-game season to take place, with opening night on July 23 as a matchup between the New York Yankees and World Series champion Washington Nationals. 

    Despite its plans for empty stands and strict social distancing and testing measures among players, the announcement for the 2020-2021 season comes amidst increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus among players. With 66 positive results among players as of July 8, the steady stream of players testing positive and opting out is leading to a growing unease that the full season might not be played. While we hold high hopes that a 2020 baseball season will be possible, the risk of COVID-19 may be too great. 



    The NFL has long been criticized for its shortcomings in protecting players’ safety. As it looks to start its 2020-2021 season in the midst of a public health crisis, the league is looking for ways to protect players’ health while preserving the football season. 

    After releasing several new safety protocols including a rule forbidding postgame interactions within 6 feet of each other as well as prohibiting NFL players swapping jerseys, many players have pushed back at what they call “silly” rules. As star 49’ers cornerback Richard Sherman said in a tweet Thursday morning, “This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell. Players can go engage in a full-contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.” 

   As the NFL has ditched plans for pre-season games, the 2020 football season remains a large question mark. 


    After shutting down its season mid-March before the playoffs, the NBA has continued to struggle with the spread of COVID-19 among players and staff. With a total of 25 positive cases among players as of last week, the NBA hopes to restart its season on July 30 with 22 teams participating in Orlando, Florida. Training camps will run from July 9-29, with three scrimmages per team. 

    On the uncertainty of the situation, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said "One thing we are learning about this virus is much [is] unpredictable, and we and our players together with their union look at the data on a daily basis," Silver said. "If there were something to change that was outside of the scope of what we are playing for, certainly we would revisit our plans.”

    As we look forward to a world where we can once again watch live sporting events, much is still uncertain. For now, we can all hope for the best and do our part to practice social distancing and wear a mask in public.


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