Coronavirus forces MLB, other US sports leagues to suspend operations

MLB, NHL, NCAA conferences follow NBA's lead as coronavirus outbreak worsens

Major League Baseball joined several other U.S. sports leagues in suspending operations on Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak, announcing that it will delay the start of its 2020 season by at least two weeks.

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“Following a call with the 30 Clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic,” MLB said in a statement. “This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans.”

MLB said its suspension of spring training operations is effective at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The league will announce any further changes to its schedule as the situation develops.

The decisions came as U.S. sports leagues throughout the professional and collegiate ranks enacted similar measures.

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The NBA suspended its season indefinitely on Wednesday after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Earlier Thursday, fellow Jazz player Donovan Mitchell was also diagnosed with the illness.

The NHL also suspended its season. Major League Soccer postponed its season by at least 30 days.

"The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "However, following last night's news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time."

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“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate,” Bettman continued. “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

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At least 13 NCAA conferences called off their postseason basketball tournaments as a precautionary measure. At present, it's unclear if the NCAA will proceed with its plan to hold the men's and women's March Madness tournaments without fans in attendance or opt to cancel the championship events entirely.

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