Update: March 9, 2020 at 11:00 p.m. ET
Four major U.S. sports organizations have come together tonight to announce sweeping changes regarding who will have media access amid coronavirus concerns.
The four leagues involved in the joint statement are Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.
The statement read: “After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pregame and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow’s games and practices. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”
Concerns over the coronavirus internationally have forced sports organizations to suspend some, or all, sports activity for the time being.
The Italian National Olympic Committee released a statement Monday stating all team sports competitions are suspended until April 3. Included in the suspension, as the AP first reported, are Series A soccer league games and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics.
The decision comes hours before Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that quarantine measures would be extended to the entire country starting Tuesday. According to multiple reports, the coronavirus death toll in Italy climbed from 97 to 463 on Monday, and there are confirmed cases in all 20 regions.
The start of the Nippon Professional Baseball regular season, which was scheduled for March 20, was also reportedly suspended today due to coronavirus concerns. As baseball writer Jim Allen reported, the season could be put on hold until mid-April. The report states the postponement addresses the “risk that playing games in front of crowds will increase the rate of new coronavirus infections in Japan.” Last month, Nippon Professional Baseball announced it would hold its remaining preseason games behind closed doors.
The concerns have also impacted sports domestically.
On Sunday, organizers of the Fila-sponsored BNP Paribas Open, commonly known as Indian Wells, called off the tournament. The announcement followed news of a confirmed coronavirus case in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, where the tournament was scheduled to take place. Indian Wells was slated to start March 9 and end on March 22.
Also, ESPN reported that the NBA scheduled a conference call for Wednesday with team owners to discuss steps in the growing coronavirus crisis. And ESPN Major League Baseball insider Jeff Passan stated on Twitter that the league will join the NBA and NHL in closing clubhouses to media over fears of a potential spread of the coronavirus.
Passan add to the Twitter thread that “MLB remains committed to playing the remainder of the slate of spring-training games as well as opening the regular season on time” and that the league will “monitor local markets and remain nimble if local health authorities recommend games not be played.”
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