Should professional sporting events keep going without fans in the stands?
- An approximate $8.5 billion worth of wagers behind March Madness will be lost in 2020 due to the banning of NBA games in light of COVID-19.
- As of July 2020, over 40 NBA players have tested positive for COVID.
- The Tokyo Summer Olympics have been postponed for at least a year.
- Sports networks such as ESPN have begun airing classic games and documentaries to divert their viewers.
Whether you have coronavirus or just the fear of becoming infected, both seem to be enough of a reason for people to stay indoors. And consequently, television ratings are skyrocketing as government shutdowns are continuously put into effect.
Social distancing provides rational justice against the spread of the disease. This of course affects us all, including athletes. Already, the NCAA has canceled all college sports through the end of the school year. Some noteworthy contest cancellations include The Boston Marathon and The Masters Tournament. The NBA, MLS, NHL, and MLB have followed suit by suspending professional play until further notice. If the news stations aren’t giving precautionary measures to the public regarding COVID -19, they’re likely publicizing the fact that most professional sporting events are canceled.
Donald Trump is urging Americans to “stay at home and save lives.” With more professional sports being canceled around the world, the athletic competitions get put on pause. Being a professional athlete may not be as essential in these times as healthcare and law enforcement officials, but the sports that professional athletes play definitely contribute to the well-being of the public. Sports fans around the world are devastated, attesting that their sports fanhood--most impassioned by watching live games--was an outlet for them from the bad news and political bickering of the day, and that outlet was taken away too quickly with news of the virus. Nobody is sure just how long this virus will affect the world, but we do know people are spending much more time in isolation. Staying inside to watch professional sports demonstrates safe social distancing which doctors recommend and government demands.
For most of us, sports are nestled deep into our lives as a show of passion, expression, and obsession. And at the center of all of it are the fans.
Fans are the backbone of the industry, from creating vibrant atmospheres to buying back-row tickets. Players are driven to perform because of the fans, and when examining if sports should go on without people in the stands, it’s important to first see this issue from the players’ perspective. Iconic athlete Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers said, “...I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd,” and other superstars like Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox mentioned that athletes “get the energy from [the] fans.”
From a public health standpoint, there are also serious dangers of continuing sporting events during a pandemic. Athletes such as Daniele Rugani of Juventus and Donavan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz have already been diagnosed with coronavirus. Many more may also be. During pro sporting events, these professionals are required to travel and interact with many people besides fans. By continuing to play, they are putting the health of themselves and everyone around them at risk. Secondly, it would be very hypocritical for authorities to recommend during this pandemic that individuals focus on their health and stay at home, while at the same time allowing athletes to carry on as usual. Whether we like it or not, athletes are role models, and it is even more important at a time like this for them to set an example by not participating in professional sporting events-- even without fans in attendance.