Professional athletic sporting events have been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of fans, players, teams, arena personnel, members of the media and the public at large. Coronaviruses are a very specific type of virus that are found within various animal populations but can also infect humans. This novel (new) coronavirus was first discovered in December of 2019 and its origins have been traced back to Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The official name for the disease is COVID-19. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized COVID-19 officially as a pandemic. This means the severity of the disease and the rate at which it has spread worldwide is at devastating levels. As of March 16, 2020 there are 167,515 cases globally that have been reported/confirmed and 6,606 deaths. COVID-19 cases have been reported in over 150 countries/territories worldwide and those numbers are increasing rapidly each day.
There has been a great deal of misinformation circulating about COVID-19 which finally came to a head in the midst of the NBA season. The US government has mismanaged the outbreak from the start. The President has publicly denounced facts based in scientific research while encouraging the public to continue to go about their daily routines as if the virus wasn’t a big deal. In an interview with Fox News, President Trump downplayed the virus and contradicted the mortality rate that WHO reported saying, “… a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor.” Trump went on to say, “You never hear about those people. So you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and — or virus. So you just can’t do that. So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better.”
Yes, the actual President of the United States said these things. This led to, of course, the general public not taking the virus seriously and the number of infected/contagious individuals has continued to rise. This all seemingly came to a head when a player on the Utah Jazz NBA basketball team named Rudy Gobert appeared to joke about COVID-19 during a session with members of the media prior to a team shoot-around. He made it a point to touch all of the microphones, digital recorders, and the table as he exited the interview. A couple days later Gobert’s name appeared on the injury report and he was categorized as “questionable” for the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Right before tip-off his coronavirus results were reported as positive and the game was cancelled. It was reported by ESPN that Gobert’s behavior around his teammates in the locker room was “careless.”
Subsequently, in the days that followed, Gobert’s teammate and basketball star Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the virus. Following the decision to suspend the NBA season, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowki explained that, “The Jazz are fortunate that they don’t have to get back together and start playing games again right now. There is a lot of work to do to repair relationships, not just between Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, but others in the locker room. There’s a lot of frustration with Gobert.” For the United States, this incident may have been the tipping point in which members of the society began to understand how serious this is. The scariest part of this particular incident is that Mitchell was completely asymptomatic; meaning he showed no signs of being ill, yet he was carrying the virus. This is why it is important for people to adhere to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation to “socially distance” for the next 8 weeks.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver effectively set the precedent for ensuring the safety of players and fans alike, by suspending operations in an effort to minimize the risk of infection. The decision to stop all game-play sent shock-waves across America and shook the collective consciousness. “There is an issue in how quickly this virus is spreading,” Silver explained on TNT. “We are relying on the public health experts. What they are telling us is if you can so-called ‘shift the curve’ or ‘flatten the curve,’ if we can push out how quickly this spreads as a public health matter, we’re doing a service for the country.”
Silver continued, “Because particularly for old people, if a lot of people get sick quickly, we’re going to run out of resources, we’re going to run out of respirators, ICU beds and etc.” His leadership allowed other major sporting events and mass gatherings to follow suit.
News broke on Tuesday March 17, 2020 that four Brooklyn Nets players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Only one player to date has exhibited symptoms while three are asymptomatic. One of the asymptomatic players is Kevin Durant.
COVID-19 is primarily spread from one person to another through fluids exchanged by way of a cough or a sneeze. In some instances, contact by way of closeness of proximity to an infected individual, have resulted in transmission of the disease. Though the disease is novel and more research must be done it has been confirmed that COVID-19 can be transmitted if an individual touches a surface that the virus is on and then touches their face. The virus can live on surfaces and hang in the air for days. There is even evidence that the virus can survive fecal expulsion which is why hand washing and hygiene is so important. It’s pretty scary stuff but is it necessary to panic? No. Instead, it is important to be cognizant of the ways in which each individual can keep themselves safe and not be a threat to others who are more susceptible because of weakened immune systems. The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Anthony Fauci, told Congress. “Bottom line, it’s going to get worse.” This is why “social distancing” is important. For the next few weeks it’s important to avoid any type of social gathering to help slow the spread of the virus. Stay home. As proven by individuals like Mitchell, some carriers of the virus are asymptomatic. A person who is asymptomatic and highly contagious could easily infect someone with a compromised immune system who may not survive. Our society is, in fact, a community, so try to be as community-minded as possible. It is a sacrifice to isolate oneself and change typical behaviors, like going to work, school, social gatherings, gyms, restaurants, malls, etc. However, in the long run, the societal benefit will be worth these small sacrifices.
Sure, it’s a bummer that for the time being sporting events are off the table, but keep in mind that there are people that don’t even have access to clean water to ensure the bare minimum of protective measures against the virus. Instead of complaining, perhaps this in an opportunity to see how each individual can be an MVP for their communities. Stay safe, stay prudent, and look out for those members of the society that need a little more help or consideration.