🏀 I just need some alone time
The GIST: It just keeps getting worse. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the sports world...kind of did too.
Scary. What’s happening?: Unfortunately, a lot. The biggest news came late last night when the NBA decided to SUSPEND THE ENTIRE SEASON. Take a minute to let that settle in. The league’s Board of Governors had been considering their options in the days leading up to the announcement, but last night’s game between the Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder and the Utah Jazz was the catalyst.
Why?: Well, earlier in the week, the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS made a joint decision to limit media access, restricting entry to locker rooms and asking media to maintain a safe distance from the players.
- And, in an effort to prove the media ban was unnecessary, Jazz player Rudy Gobert then “jokingly” made a point of physically touching every microphone and recorder after the Jazz’s game on Monday.
That was dumb!: Tell us about it. Gobert was then listed as “questionable” for last night’s OKC-Jazz game due to illness, and seconds before the game was due to start, the Jazz’s team doctor halted play with the news that Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. C’mon, man.
- The league initially decided to postpone the game, but within an hour, they made the decision to suspend the rest of the NBA season. We’re shook. We have no idea what this means: the league could resume play if things clear up, end the season as is and go right into the playoffs or just cancel it outright. Only time will tell.
Wow, this is wild!: And that's not all! Earlier in the day, the NCAA announced that March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament, will be played without fans. Instead, only limited family members and essential staff will be allowed to attend games. So, so wild.
- March Madness is one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world. Last season’s tournament brought in $933 million, with ticket revenue accounting for $160 million. You know it’s a BFD when the NCAA is turning down that much dough.
Anything else?: In the NHL, the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets will play their home games in empty arenas for the time being, with the league set to provide an update at some point today, and this week’s BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament (largely considered the “fifth grand slam”) in California and next week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal have been canceled. Just brutal.
And the rest of the world?: In England, players and staff of the Arsenal soccer team are quarantined after being in contact with Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Olympiakos FC. Arsenal played Olympiakos FC last week and Marinakis has since tested positive for COVID-19. Italian soccer player Daniele Rugani, who plays for Juventus with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, has also tested positive.
- Meanwhile, down in Australia, three Formula 1 team crew members are in isolation after they began to show symptoms ahead of Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne. Luckily, a new season of F1: Drive to Survive just came out, so at least they can binge-watch that while quarantined.
What’s next?: Who knows?! The NFL is still monitoring the situation as it relates to next month’s Draft, and the world is anxiously awaiting a ruling from the International Olympic Committee on the Summer Olympics. Honestly, it’s all a lot to keep up on, so follow along here or keep a close eye on our Twitter for all the biggest updates.
🏀 Crazy train
- The loss also marked Baylor’s first loss to a Big 12 team since February 2017, ending the Lady Bears’ 58-game regular-season and 45-game road Big 12 win streak. But as the great Nelly Furtado once said, all good things come to an end. Meanwhile, this victory was Iowa State’s first win over a ranked team this season and earned them a March Madness bid. Sports, you gotta love ’em.
What about Sabrina Ionescu?: The force known as Sabrina and the No. 3 Oregon Ducks are always exciting AF to watch, and last night’s impressive 89–56 win over the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal was no exception. Sabrina got herself another double-double with 20 points and 12 assists, and the Ducks locked up the Pac-12 tournament championship and likely a No. 1 seed in March Madness. That’s what we’re talking about!
And what about the men?: On Saturday, Utah State became the first team to book a ticket to the “Big Dance,” after senior guard Sam Merrill hit a three-pointer with two seconds left, knocking off No. 5 San Diego State 59–56 and claiming the Mountain West division tournament title. In total, five conference champs earned a bid over the weekend, and we’re just getting started. Selection Sunday can’t come faster.
🏀 A tale of two Hardens
The GIST: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In a 108–99 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets star James Harden somehow pulled off a rare quadruple-double this weekend, in the most Harden way possible.
What’s a quadruple-double?: A quad-double is when a player records double digits in four of the five statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots — in a single game. Technically, Harden only hit a triple-double, putting up 30 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
- But in this amazing showcase of talent, he also managed a pretty bad stat: 10 turnovers! So yes, this “quad-double” (which, BTW, was the third in his career) is very tongue-in-cheek.
What else is going on in the NBA?: Poor Steph Curry can’t catch a break. Just a few days after returning from a broken hand that caused him to miss 58 games, the Golden State Warrior is back on the injured list with the flu. But don’t panic! It’s a seasonal flu, not COVID-19, so he should be back on the court in no time.
- Unfortunately, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YONNIS ANDEDO-KOONPO) isn’t as lucky. Last season’s league MVP suffered a minor joint capsule sprain (aka a knee injury) during Friday’s 113–103 loss to the Lakers. Giannis, who just became a dad last month, will miss at least two games.
And what’s this about the Battle of LA?: The LA Lakers and LA Clippers face off four times each season, and the bouts rarely disappoint. Yesterday’s edition, the third of the season, was no exception. Despite being the better team, the Lakers had difficulties with the Clippers in the first two showdowns but came out with a vengeance in this game, winning 112–103.
🏒 Sicko mode
The GIST: COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the sports world, and this weekend, it took out one of its first major international events: the IIHF Women’s World Championship.
No way! Why?: The tournament, which features the top national women’s hockey teams from around the world, was set to take place from March 31st to April 10th in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia. Though Canada hasn’t seen a huge spread of the virus like in other countries, the event organizers decided not to risk it and cancelled the tournament with less than a month to go before puck drop.
- This isn’t the first time this tournament has been cancelled: the Beijing-hosted 2003 event was cancelled due to the SARS outbreak. The IIHF has said that, pending IIHF Congress approval, the 2021 tournament will be held in Halifax and Truro.
Brutal! How are the North American professional leagues dealing?: The NHL will continue to play games with fans in attendance for the foreseeable future and have a contingency plan (which could affect playoffs) to roll out if needed. They’ve asked players to limit contact with fans and are considering closing locker rooms to the media, which, TBH, players are probably happy about anyway.
- Meanwhile, the NBA will decide by end of day tomorrow what their plan will be in the event of a pandemic (though we already know LeBron’s plans). And while the NFL is currently in the off-season, the NFL Draft, set for April 23rd to 25th in Las Vegas, will go on, in spite of predicting a significant decrease in the expected 750,000-person crowd.
Yikes. Anything else?: A few more cancellations (you can find a running list here), including the alpine skiing World Cup finals in Northern Italy, where American skiing queen Mikaela Shiffrin was supposed to make a return after missing a month, and the Arctic Winter Games, which were scheduled to start on March 15th and feature over 2,000 international athletes.
- The Summer Olympics are still a go (for now, anyway) but the torch lighting ceremony, which will bring the Olympic flame from Athens, Greece, to Tokyo, Japan, has been downsized. We’re really hoping, for so many reasons, that the Games remain unaffected. There are still four months to go, so wash your hands and cross your fingers!
⚽ Progress begets progress
Most importantly, 2019 and 2020 have provided us with MAJOR moments when it comes to fighting for gender equity in sports.
- Something special is happening today. NBCSN in the US and Sportsnet in Canada are each airing an NHL game with an all-female broadcast team. This is a huge step in the right direction, especially if it isn’t just an IWD thing. We hope it leads to more women producing and broadcasting hockey (and all sports) always.
- This email would be incomplete without giving a standing ovation to the US women’s national soccer team (USWNT). For years, they’ve been on the forefront of pushing gender equity in soccer. And most recently, they’ve been making incredible strides in a highly-publicized legal battle against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for fair pay.
- On top of that, players like Megan Rapinoe have not only inspired some pretty awesome Halloween costumes, but have also inspired women around the world to take a stand for equality.
- In January, the WNBA and its players’ union made
historyherstory, when they set the terms of a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that significantly benefited the players.
- Among other things, the CBA included an increase in salary, added bonuses for top players, guaranteed fully paid maternity leave, better travel conditions and mental health resources. It was so refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women, setting a new standard for other leagues to follow.
- In November 2019, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty took home a cool $4.42M USD winner’s cheque — the largest winner’s cheque in tennis history — after winning the WTA Finals. Huge kudos to tennis for being on the forefront of gender-pay equity. Incredible.
- Getting back to soccer, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup saw a record viewership of 1.12 billion (!!!) viewers. Who said people don’t watch women’s sports?
That’s #thegist of the incredible 14 months women in sports have had. We keep on breaking barriers, smashing ceilings, and doing our absolute best to level the playing field. And if the beginning of 2020 is any indication of the progress that will be made for the remainder of the year, we are in for an absolute treat.