The Biggest Leagues and Teams Impacted by the COVID Pandemic

Columbus Crew playing D.C. United at Audi Field without spectators in attendance. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

From athletics to soccer, to wrestling, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on various sports across the world. We take a look at a few examples of the biggest teams and leagues that were affected by the pandemic.

The NFL gets hit harder, later

Keelan Cole #84 of Jacksonville Jaguars warming up at SoFi Stadium October 2020. Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Out of all the sports we’ll look at in this article, many expected the NFL to be spared the brunt of the problems since it started later in the year. Unfortunately for NFL betting fans, that would not be the case. At the beginning of the year, the 2020 NFL Draft moved to an online format, and players that were drafted would have to wait to meet the teams that signed them in order to comply with the new COVID-19 regulations. 

Despite early indications that this may be the worst of it, the NFL lost their offseason, cut their preseason schedule from four weeks to two, and then ended up canceling their preseason games entirely. While the NFL had hoped to keep as regular a schedule as possible, COVID-19 forced the league to make changes to protect the players and staff, as well as allowing players to opt-out, with key players like Matthew Stafford, Gardner Minshew, and Dont’a Hightower choosing to sit out of games (even if it was temporary for some). However, the problems didn’t end there.

As play continued, games were shuffled around as players tested positive, and as of October 22, 14 games had been rescheduled. However, with the risk of even more COVID-19 infections, it’s likely that more games will be rescheduled. With the season still ongoing, it remains to be seen if the NFL will scrap the remainder of this season or soldier through it.

The question remains that if they do continue to play, will it be worthwhile? Teams like the Patriots have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 infections, after Stephen Gilmore and Cam Newton both tested positive. This is particularly concerning after Broncos player Von Miller detailed his recovery from the virus earlier this year, and how he struggled to return to form due to his asthma condition. Even if players don’t end up in the hospital, if it takes weeks to recover properly, many players will be underperforming once they return to play. 

The Premier League gets a yellow card from COVID-19

Benjamin Henrichs of RB Leipzig and Luke Shaw of Manchester United at UEFA Champions League October 2020. Photo by Vincent Mignott/ Getty Images

The entire soccer world was affected by the Coronavirus, but we’ll be looking at just one of the affected leagues: the Premier League. As with many other sports, the Premier League called a halt to play in early March, in order to give themselves time to come up with a plan to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. This suspension was only meant to last until April 4, but play was only resumed three months later on June 17.

Play resumed without fans, and with stadiums being divided into zones that each had their own dedicated protocols for managing the Coronavirus. Players would also undergo regular testing, and players would need to give regular feedback regarding their own health. Traveling to and from destinations for games would also take place under the strictest of conditions, and certain traditions—such as the handshake before the game—would be done away with. These, and dozens of other changes, were enough for us to see the relaunch of the Premier League. 

However, just like the NFL, it seems that it wasn’t enough to eliminate the spread of the Coronavirus. Players have been contracting the virus, with at least eight new positive cases in recent weeks. This has made some people ask: will the Premier League continue or will it take another break after this recent increase in cases?

The NBA 2020 season calls for a five month timeout

Virtual fan stands 2020 NBA Finals at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex September 2020. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NBA was one league that was drastically impacted by COVID at the start, with all play being suspended for months, but then managed to turn things around. 

What could only be described as karma struck Rudy Gobert days after he joked about the Coronavirus. At the end of a press gathering in early March, the Utah Jazz player showed his lack of concern regarding the virus and touched reporters’ microphones on the podium. On March 11, the league would suspend all play after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID-19. This player was later revealed to be Rudy Gobert. 

This was the biggest disruption to play since the NBA lockout took place in 2011. At the time, the NBA hoped to return to play in June, following advice from the CDC that eight weeks would be enough in a best-case scenario.

Sadly, a best-case scenario was not on the cards, even though the NBA took steps to ensure players minimized any risk of exposing themselves to the virus. This included social distancing, providing their teams with updates regarding their travel, and quarantine if they believed they had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or had tested positive. However, despite all this, the new date for the resumption of play was only announced on June 4. 

This announcement described how play would resume in a “bubble” in Florida at Disney World. Players and supporting staff entered the bubble early, quarantined, and underwent regular testing before training began on July 9. Scrims started on the 22nd of July, while the remainder of the 2020 season played out between July 30 and October 12. By the time the Lakers lifted the championship trophy, it was obvious that the bubble had achieved what it was supposed to do. 

The NHL temporarily puts the league on ice

Edmonton Oilers at Western Conference Qualification Round August 2020. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

If you enjoy NHL betting, this indoor sport was also affected by the pandemic, but like the NBA, they slammed on the brakes, put together a plan, and came out relatively unscathed at the end. 

Earlier this year, just one day after the NBA announced they were suspending play, the NHL and various other ice hockey leagues followed suit. Games would be paused until the NHL could figure out how to manage the pandemic. After several weeks planning on how to move forward, on May 26 the NHL announced their plans to return to the ice. 

Play would resume with 24 teams, with the top 12 from each conference based on their points percentage. Seven teams would take part in a draft lottery. The top four teams from each conference would automatically make it into the playoffs, with the rest of the teams competing for the remaining playoff spots.

With COVID-19 regulations in place, the league was able to test and isolate players that were affected by the Coronavirus early on, ensuring their bubble was protected. As a result, the NHL was able to complete play with zero COVID-19 cases.

2020 starts with MLB in limbo

Dodgers fans watching the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay Rays World Series on screen from their vehicle October, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

If you are interested in MLB betting, things did not get off to a good start for Major League Baseball earlier this year. In the beginning of March, plans were put into place to launch the regular season on March 26th as planned. They barred access to the clubhouse to players and essential personnel and stated that they were regularly communicating with health officials about the spread of the virus. 

However, the writing was on the wall when Washington state banned large group gatherings a few days later. More and more obstacles appeared, causing the MLB to scramble for solutions. Major events, such as the 2021 World Baseball Classic, were canceled, and the MLB draft was massively reworked due to the Coronavirus. The start of the regular season was again pushed back. Towards the end of June, outbreaks of COVID-19 resulted in the MLB shutting down all spring training sites for disinfection. 

The revised 2020 MLB season began on July 23 with a shortened 60-game season. The format was changed in order to make up for this, and numerous players chose to opt-out due to concerns around their health or the health of those close to them. A few of these players included Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman, David Price, and Felix Hernandez. 

Even under the revised systems, within two weeks of play numerous players tested positive across a number of teams. The Cardinals postponed their match against Milwaukee after two of their players tested positive. The Marlins also experienced an outbreak, while the Phillies also had to call off a match due to positive tests from their coaching staff. Other infections appeared but when offseason play resumed in a bubble, the MLB managed to prevent players and staff from testing positive.

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These were not the only leagues and teams affected by COVID-19, but they were undoubtedly some of the biggest. While some sports and leagues we looked at are still struggling to adapt to this new normal, others managed to adapt to the circumstances and salvage the year. 

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