Photo Credit: Florida State Athletics

In an unprecedented and almost surreal move, the sports world has shut down because of the coronavirus.

After Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA was forced to suspend operations almost immediately. The day after, every major American sports league, along with other popular sporting events, has followed suit.

In the collegiate world, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments have been canceled. Spring sports have been suspended and their respective championships, including the College World Series, have also been canceled. This followed the direction of the Ivy League, which shut down all sporting events earlier in the week. 

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA said in a statement. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”

Once a sports spectacle that combines the theatre and grace that makes makes sports beautiful, March Madness – the men’s basketball tournament – is now gone. It no longer can provide us the basic escape that so many yearn for in sports.

Suspending was Right

The decision by the NCAA, however, was the right decision. The NCAA, much like the NBA and other leagues, had no choice but to suspend operations. This pandemic goes above sports and goes beyond our enjoyment of sport. Instead of focusing on the release a game between the 14-seed and 3-seed would provide, the focus should be on keeping these college athletes out of harm’s way. The focus should be on making sure the athletes, staff, and family members are safe and healthy. 

COVID-19 is highly contagious and deadlier than the flu. Our top medical professionals have no idea how many citizens have the disease, or how many those with the disease may have impacted. If not acted upon swiftly, the United States runs the risk of a complete shutdown similar to the situation in Italy.

The streets of Italy are bare, almost empty for most of the day. Other than grocery stores and pharmacies, businesses are shut down to prevent the spread of the virus. Weddings and funerals are outlawed. No one is allowed to leave their houses without a signed document that addresses that they know the risks that come with that simple action. Tourist cities like Milan and Rome are as empty as the smallest towns around them. At the time of writing. Italy has over 15,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Of those cases, 1,106 people have passed away due to the virus. 

Their sports have also been impacted by the virus. Not only are all sports in Italy suspended until further notice but recently, Italian soccer players Manolo Gabbiadini and Daniele Rugani, who play in Italy’s top soccer league, Serie A, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Other Leagues Affected

Along with the Serie A, both the NBA and England’s Premier League have their patient zero. The Jazz’ Rudy Gobert and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus. How long could it have been before the NCAA got their own if they continued to play, even behind closed doors? And in that eventuality, how far could this have spread?

Americans are not immune to the disease. Our genes are not invincible. The germs don’t recognize borders. As a country, we have to “flatten the curve” and get ahead of it while we can. We need to do everything in our power to stop the spread of this disease.

Going Viral

Every time a large group of people convenes in an area, the risk of spreading the virus increases. The NCAA made the right choice to avoid these large groups of people, even if it is just athletes and essential staff. Infected people often don’t know they are and unknowingly spread it to more vulnerable parties. Our priority as a country has to be to stop the spread of this virus and the best way to do so is to remove anything that can help the spread.

These decisions are never easy. They affect a lot of people who do not deserve to be affected. Over the course of the week, thousands of student-athletes have played their last game prematurely. Players hoping to increase their draft stock in their respective sports may have lost that chance. The sports those coaches and athletes love was ripped away from them because of something they could not control.

Sports will be back, as will the canceled music festivals and conventions. Until then, everything that can be shut down, including sporting events, needs to be shut down. Not next week, not next month, not when it is too late to prevent the spread, but now.