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Basketball Hoop

NBA Players Have Mixed Reactions To Being In Disney World Bubble

NBA players have been in the Walt Disney World “bubble” for almost a week now and many of them are less than enthused to be living in an isolated hotel in preparation for the 2020 season. Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, for example, made an Instagram post after being in the bubble for less than 24 hours that showed a picture of what looked like uncooked chicken. He captioned the post “This ain’t it, I’m about to starve out here in Orlando,” setting the tone for many other players’ reactions to being locked away and isolated from the world. 

The league is set to fully relaunch on July 30th, but many players are arriving early for pre-season/ to remain isolated for two weeks ahead of the season to make sure they’re healthy enough to play. The first game is set to be between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans. All players must receive two negative Covid-19 results that are 24 hours apart before they’ll be able to leave their hotel rooms. 

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NBA spokesperson Michael Bass recently spoke to the media about the specifics of the living conditions within the bubble as time progresses:

“After clearing quarantine, players will also have access to various restaurants on campus and delivery options to choose from … There is never a shortage of food options – players can always request additional food by speaking with their team nutritionists.”

Many players besides Harrell have also been documenting their Disney Hotel journeys upon arrival. Some have shared more positive sentiments, showing off their stellar views and elaborate room setups, but for the most part, the posts have seemed relatively negative. Many players have been adamant about the lack of quality food and Wi-Fi making it difficult to contact their loved ones back home. 

One of the most viral posts came from Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyrus Jones who posted a photo of a dead cockroach in his room, along with a plate of food many have been describing as “airplane quality.” 

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These posts emulate a massive conflict that all major sports league players are facing in the coming months. Is the sacrifice to provide professional sports entertainment to the public in the middle of a global health crisis really worth it? Many have made the comparison to television and movie studios in Hollywood shutting down all production indefinitely to the major leagues, claiming that professional sports require the same level of person-to-person interaction as recording a scene for a TV show, so why are they continuing to play? Disney World is also located in Florida, which has become one of the world’s new epicenters for the virus. 

Major League Soccer kicked off their season this past week, but has also had two teams pull out of the season after players tested positive for Covid-19. The separation of players and the world within these bubbles is also taking a psychological toll on players already, as many will likely not be able to see their loved ones again for at least 50 days depending on how the season progresses and if there’s any new case numbers within the bubble. 

In the bubble, players are required to remain isolated, will be tested daily for the coronavirus, and policies such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing are still required.

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Under Fire For Multiple Claims Of Racism And Sexual Abuse

Former Major League Baseball All-star Torii Hunter recently made a public statement claiming to be called the N-word “a hundred times” anytime he played at Fenway Park in Boston. Hunter stated that the city of Boston in general has a major racism problem, but he also received a massive amount of racially charged hate from within the industry as well. 

The Red Sox were quick to release a statement backing up Hunter’s claims and stated that they promised to fight racism from the inside. The Red Sox also added that there have been at least seven incidents cited within the past year alone that involved fans using racial slurs against players or rival fans. 

“Torii Hunter’s experience is real. And it’s not only players. It happens to the dedicated Black employees who work for us on game days. As we identify how we can do better, please know we are listening.”

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However, many individuals were quick to point out that the Boston Red Sox specifically have a long history of hearing claims of misconduct from black people working for them to no avail. The biggest example being the fact that there are more than a dozen black men who have made multiple claims over the past several years that they were sexually abused by former Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald Fitzpatrick. 

Fitzpatrick died back in 2005, but before that pleaded guilty to criminal charges of attempted sexual battery in 2002. During the trial Fitzpatrick admitted to using Red Sox memorabilia to lure young, black clubhouse workers into hidden areas of the training facility where he would then abuse them. Since 2002 a large number of men stepped forward to not only show their support for the victims, but allege that they were abused by Fitzpatrick as well. Many of the claims, however, dated all the way back to the 80’s and 90’s, making it difficult to bring those charges to trial. 

One of the largest controversies that came from that case regarded how many members of the team/working closely with the team knew about the alleged abuse, and how many worked to cover it up. Gerald Armstrong, 65, has been adamant that he believes multiple individuals not only knew about it, but let it happen continuously; “You can’t tell me that you can have 30 or 40 guys traveling around with him and observing his behavior and not know what he was doing,” Armstrong claimed. 

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Now, there’s been a large call-to-action placed on the city of Boston and the Red Sox to not make the same mistakes they made in the early 2000’s, and actually work to make systemic change within the type of individuals allowed to work for/around players and other black employees. 

The Red Sox in general have a fairly racist history as well, being the last team in the MLB to integrate black players back in 1959. Just two years ago the team was finally able to remove Tom Yawkey’s name from the street that runs alongside Fenway Park; Yawkey is the former Sox owner who made the decisions when it came to integrating the team. 

Separating from the racist and abusive past will be difficult for the Red Sox, however, Armstrong and Hunter believe that being so public about this misconduct during a time where America is reckoning itself for its multitude of racist systems, will be inspiring. 

“I think a lot of black men have been molested and for cultural reasons they just don’t come forward to deal with it. And if you don’t deal with it, you’re looking at a lot of emotional problems.”

Armstrong is encouraging all black people, and specifically men who were victims of abuse themselves, to take ownership of their lives and work to overcome that shame and embarrassment that predators like Fitzpatrick instill in them. 

Baseball on Mound

MLB’s Ian Desmond Opts Out Of 2020 Season With Powerful Message On Racial Justice

Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond is opting out of playing the upcoming shortened MLB season amid coronavirus concerns and the national movement for racial justice in America. Desmond recently made a statement on his Instagram in which he detailed how racism has impacted him in his personal life, and within the professional sports world as well. Desmond believes that the MLB needs to have just as much of a confrontation with racism as the rest of the country. 

Desmond has been playing for MLB for 11-years and has been playing for the Rockies for the past three seasons as a part of a $70 million five-year contract. In his Instagram statement, he claimed to be inspired to speak out and use his platform to discuss his experiences with racism after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. In his post, he detailed how much of his life has been shaped by systemic racism. 

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He recalled how in grade school the administration held a meeting for white families to tell them that Desmond and his sister would be enrolling. He then went on to discuss how his high school team often chanted “white power” ahead of games, which brought him into his experiences within MLB. 

“When I reflect on it [MLB career], I find myself seeing those same boxes. The golden rules of baseball — don’t have fun, don’t pimp home runs, don’t play with character. Those are white rules. Don’t do anything fancy. Take it down a notch. Keep it all in the box.”

He recounted hearing multiple racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes in clubhouses and discussed how there are very little black managers and players in MLB; an issue Desmond doesn’t personally believe anyone is actively trying to fix within the industry. 

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Desmond knowingly forgoed his salary by opting out of the season, and MLB has fully supported his decision, as they’ve been fairly back-and-forth about restarting the season in general. Desmond, however, claimed that he will still be spending the season on a baseball field, just with some smaller players. He’ll be working with his hometowns Little League players to get the teams “back on track” for the summer. 

“With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now.  Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.”

Desmond is not alone in opting out of playing the upcoming shortened MLB season, which is projected to resume on July 23rd. Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross recently gave statements through their managers that they wouldn’t be playing, along with Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed pitcher Mike Leake. All players also claimed that family played an obvious major role in their decision. 

As previously mentioned the 2020 MLB season is set to begin on July 23rd or 24th and will last for 60 games.

Hockey Stadium

Amazon Renames Seattle NHL Stadium ‘Climate Pledge Arena’ In New Green Initiative

Amazon has officially secured the naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will be the home for the city’s new NHL team as well as the WNBA’s Storm team. Amazon made the announcement this week that they would be deciding the name of the arena, however, many were shocked to learn that the company wouldn’t include its name in the title; something that’s fairly typical when it comes to naming stadium-type establishments after the corporations that sponsor them (Staples Center, Citi Field, AT&T Stadium, etc.). 

Instead, the stadium will be named Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several new green initiatives to make the future of live sports entertainment more environmentally friendly. 

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“I think this is going to be a transformative moment in our industry. Amazon said, ‘We’ll act like a naming rights partner, but let’s do this the right way. We don’t need any more branding. What we need is to go save the planet.’ It was brilliant,” a spokesperson for the arena claimed. 

As mentioned Climate Pledge Arena is going to run with the intention of remaining completely green. In fact, Amazon is attempting to make it the first arena in the world to earn a net zero carbon certifications by the International Living Future Institute.  There are a multitude of features that will be implemented into the structure, games themselves, and clean up procedures for the stadium. 

All ice for hockey games will be created using recycled rainwater thanks to a massive tank that’s located underground and adjacent to the arena. This tank is specifically designed to collect runoff rainwater from the roof of the arena, but the arena’s team is also working on a way to easily allow fans at home to bring their own recycled rainwater to help aid the running of the stadium.

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All events will also be “zero waste,” a decision that according to the team was inspired by singer Billie Eilish, who before the coronavirus pandemic was embarking on a world tour for her most recent album. Eilish asked every venue that she was planning to play on her tour to eliminate as much single-waste plastic as possible, to which they all happily obliged to get one of the biggest artists of the year to play at their establishment. 

 “I was like, I can’t believe she got an entire syndication of arenas to come along and finally address this issue. I was so in awe that she made this part of the deal. When we were debating this, I said if she could do it for a night, couldn’t we do this for 365 nights?” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group. 

75% of the arena’s food vendors will be sourced seasonally by local farmers and producers as a means of helping local small businesses. Unused food that’s still edible and viable will also be donated to various food charities in the area. The arena will also solely run on electricity, and carbon emissions and sustainability performance is set up to be closely monitored and will also be made public record to all American citizens so they can see for themselves how green the arena is. 

The cost of the building overall is set to be around $900 million and will be able to hold 18,000 sports fans. Its projected to host around 200 events each year, which will also include concerts. The building is currently still under construction, as production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s expected to make its public debut with Seattle’s brand new NHL team in 2021-2022 (the dates are subject to change based on how the pandemic progresses). 

Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving Among Players Refusing To Play 2020 NBA Season Amid Covid-19 And Social Justice Movements

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is leading a player movement to skip the NBA’s restart of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic and multiple protests regarding issues of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Baseball Game

Several MLB Players Test Positive For Covid-19

Major League Baseball has informed their players union this week that several major-league players and coaches have recently tested positive for Covid-19. The announcement comes shortly after the players union heard a pitch to begin baseball season under new regulations; there’s been a massive hold up for baseball specifically over labor disputes and salary. 

Now, these new cases may cancel the season altogether. Fears of a second-wave have already flooded the nation as over 20 states have now reported new cases of the virus within the past week. MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said that the second-wave worries were the initial reason that they wanted to end the season by September 27th in their initial proposal. 

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However, MLB fans were quick to attack the MLB for delaying the season as a way of getting out of playing regular games and getting straight to the playoffs; a claim Halem has adamantly denied, stating that the players and staffs health and safety has always been the top priority when discussing the future of the 2020 season.  

Halem recently wrote a letter to lead union attorney Bruce Meyer, stating: “Your recent letters have all expressed the concern, in one form or another, that players are being ‘asked to take on extraordinary burdens and risks in the current environment. However, the Association’s proposals to play as many games as possible, as deep into the fall as possible, increases the health risks to players and staff, which is not something we are prepared to do.”

Halem went on to claim that he and the players disagree with Meyer’s “assertion that [their] concern about player health and safety in the midst of the greatest health crisis in our lifetime is a ‘pretext’ to play fewer games.” He then cited a letter from the Office of the Commissioner from March that claimed the MLB would be using their best efforts to start the 2020 season, however, player health and safety was going to be the biggest concern. 

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Obviously in March, a majority of the country was remaining blissfully ignorant at the reality of a worldwide health pandemic occurring. However, as time quickly showed us, this is definitely one of the biggest public health crises the world has ever seen. That same attitude has transferred over into every job industry, especially in regards to entertainment/sports. 

At the end of March the MLB, along with other major sports leagues in America, all made comprehensive plans of ways to continue on their sports season once cases of Covid began to decrease. Unfortunately as we all know, the cases only continued to increase, and at an exponential rate. 

Medical and health officials who have worked with the MLB and its players in the past have already warned executives that they should anticipate that the virus situation will be getting much worse in the fall. 

“The proliferation of COVID-19 outbreaks around the country over the last week, and the fact that we already know of several 40-man roster players and staff who have tested positive, has increased the risks associated with commencing spring training in the next few weeks. I note that both the NBA and NHL, two leagues which you repeatedly reference in your letter, do not intend to resume play until about August 1, and both intend to resume play at a limited number of sites with a quarantine approach,” Halem continued in his letter. 

For now, like every other industry and system in the world, only time will tell how much worse this pandemic will get/impact the future of sports entertainment. In the meantime it’s important to remain diligent when out in public and always wear a mask, socially distance, and disinfect when you return home.

Baseball Glove

New MLB Proposal To Players Association Calls For 76-Game Season

Major League Baseball has made a new proposal to the Major League Baseball Players Association that is offering players 75% of their prorated salaries over the course of a shortened 76-game season. 

ESPN’s own, Karl Ravech, took to Twitter this past weekend to report on the proposal, in which he further explained that the season would aim to finish by September 27th with a postseason ending in October. The proposal also apparently makes “significant moves towards players demands” according to Ravech. 

Later in the day ESPN’s Jeff Passan took to Twitter to further explain the proposal that Ravech touched on, claiming that it would in fact be a 76-game season with a 75% prorated salary per player; this would equate to a total of $1,431,716,000 in additional compensations. That would equate to $1,909,436 per player for the 76 games, according to Passan

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Additionally, the proposal calls for up to 8 playoff teams per league. Teams that lose any of their free agents will receive a draft pick for other players that sign a multiyear deal of $35 million or more, or players with one-year deals offering $17.8 million in salary. Spring training will last for 21 days and the season will begin around July 10th. If a postseason occurs, each player will receive an additional $393,000 to their salaries.

It’s predicted, however, that the Major League Baseball Players Association will be rejecting this proposal, according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich; two established sports journalists who write for The Athletic. The two journalists do agree that Major League Baseball will make an appearance in 2020, just not under these specific circumstances. 

The reasoning behind their lack of confidence in the players association approving this proposal is because it’s the third one to be presented to the group. The first proposal called for an 82-season game with a sliding-scale payment structure based on participation in the season, while the second proposed a 50-game season with a 33% prorated salary throughout. 

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“The MLBPA regards today’s offer from MLB to be worse than the league’s last because it shifts greater emphasis on risk sharing in the postseason. Players would receive 50 percent of pro rata if there is no postseason, 75 if there is. To put it another way, MLB’s offer can be said to represent a 50 percent per-game pay cut with a potential upside of a 25 percent cut,” tweeted Evan Drellich.

Bob Nightengale, a sports journalist for USA Today, agreed with Drellich’s above tweet, claiming that MLB views the latest offer as a major “step backwards.” The difficulty lies in the fact that the players made their own prorated agreement with the team owners back in March, however, as the pandemic continued to worsen, plans have obviously changed. 

The other difficulty lies in the fact that MLB is trying to prepare for the enormous lack of money they’d be making this season with no fans able to attend the games, purchase memorabilia, food, etc. due to Covid-19 concerns. The players have responded to this concern by stating that owners should “keep any surplus revenue in good years so they could absorb the hit in one year,” according to Nightingale. 

Players also are tired of the constant salary negotiations, as they already agreed to major pay cuts/ prorated salaries in March and don’t want to keep renegotiating for a season they don’t even know the full structure of yet. It’s predicted that the players association will come to some sort of conclusion in the coming week, as all members of MLB are still projecting to start the season in July, so for now, only time will tell when that’ll be.

Basketball

NBA Board Of Governors To Discuss Future Of 2020 Playoff Season

The NBA’s board of governors will have a meeting this Thursday in which they will vote to possibly approve a plan that would restart the basketball season with 22 teams stationed in Orlando, Florida. While no formal plan has been proposed, and it’s unlikely that one will even pass given the current state of the country in regards to Covid-19, some title favorites are internally figuring out ways to make a season in Florida work; considering they’d be giving up the “home-court advantage” every game. 

All major sports leagues (and non-sports related industries as well) in America have learned throughout this pandemic that creativity and innovation are key in changing the way we run our lives and careers. However, for the NBA specifically, there is still a great chance that the playoffs will get cancelled, which would mean for the first time in the NBA’s 74-year history a champion team will not be crowned. 

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Some teams are trying to strategize ways of advancing their teams edge if they’ll be forced to play in just one stadium. 

“Executives from the teams that would host a first-round series in the playoffs told ESPN that they had internal discussions within their own front offices about reviving their home-court advantage in some fashion, and that some have already shared ideas with other teams in the same situation, with the hopes of having an ally when making an appeal to the league,” (ESPN).

Sources also told ESPN about what some of these options for “reviving their home-court advantage” would be, including giving the team with the higher-seed first possession during the second, third, and fourth quarters of the game. The higher-seeded team can also receive an extra coach’s challenge, and transport their actual hardwood home courts from their arenas to Orlando. 

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The NBA competition committee is made up of team owners, general managers, players, and coaches. The committee held a meeting this week and none of the above options were discussed, in fact, they didn’t even discuss the possibility of restarting the season. The purpose of this committee, however, is to act as the middleman between the players and the board of governors. They discuss new ideas and changes the league could make, compile a professional presentation and then present to the board; like any office job. 

“[I’m] more concerned about play resuming than getting a playoff benefit. I’ve been just so hoping that we actually play the games, I don’t care if they even give us the home-court advantage. I’m like, just be sure we play. We’ve got to get to Orlando. We’ve got to have a chance to play for a championship in the playoffs. I don’t care what they do. We have such a hungry team and mindset, that yeah, sure, great, give us an extra timeout, give us an extra possession. Whatever the ideas are, I’m all for it,” Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

So far, many executives and board members have emphasized the importance of health and safety during this pandemic, hence why the specifics of restarting the season haven’t fully been discussed yet. Like every other industry in this country, only time will tell how this virus will continue to impact the way in which they run. However, NBA fans can expect a little more clarity on the future of the playoff season by the end of this week.

Marathon Runners

2020 Boston Marathon Officially Cancelled For The First Time In 124 Years

Organizers of the Boston Marathon announced this week that for the first time in the event’s history the marathon will be cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Originally, event planners were trying to work out a feasible way of implementing social distancing lanes of running so that everyone would be in their own space, however, as case numbers continued to increase and America became the most Covid-19 infected country in the world, they soon realized it just wouldn’t be possible. 

The Boston Marathon originally began 124 years ago, persisting through both world wars, a volcanic eruption, and a whole other pandemic. The race itself typically draws a crowd of 30,000 athletes from all over the world. Originally, when the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to impact citizens of the US, marathon organizers moved the event from April 20th to the beginning of September. However, now that we really know how unpredictable the coronavirus is, the event has been fully cancelled and will instead take on a more virtual format. 

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“It became clear as this crisis developed that Sept. 14 was less and less plausible. This is a challenge, but meeting tough challenges is what the Boston Marathon is all about,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference outside City Hall, going on to bring up the response to the finish line bombings seven years ago. “It’s a symbol of our city’s and our commonwealth’s resilience. So it’s incumbent upon all of us to dig deep, like a marathon runner, like we did in 2013, and keep that spirit alive.”

As previously mentioned the Boston Marathon typically has 30,000 recreational, charity, and professional runners participate in it, but the event itself draws in a crowd of up to 1 million. Fans line up every year from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay as they cheer on their friends and family while they race to the finish line. This route is also the reason that organizers knew creating a social distance means of running the marathon wouldn’t work. 

“There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity. While our goal and our hope was to make progress in containing the virus and recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on Sept. 14 or any time this year,” Walsh said.

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The Boston Marathon is the longest-running annual marathon in America. It originally began in 1897 and the first race consisted of 15 men racing on a dirt path in Ashland and heading into the heart of the city. In 1918 the city modified the marathon format to be more like a relay race amid World War 1. 

Besides that, the only other times the Boston Marathon had to “adjust” the way it was organized was in 2012 when temperatures in the city hit 90 degrees and it was too dangerous for individuals to be running for that long, and in 2010 when a volcanic eruption in Iceland grounded air travel and prevented thousands of runners from Europe from participating in the event. 

“The spirit of Boston and the spirit of the Boston Marathon is to be strong and to be smart. When necessity drives you in a direction you might not have liked, you need to have the strength, the wisdom and the guidance from public officials to do what’s right,” Boston Athletic Association CEO Tom Grilk said.

Mayor Walsh went on in his speech now to say that those who already paid their entry fee for this year’s race will receive a full refund and will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual marathon. Between September 7th-14th, the city of Boston will post a “virtual toolkit” that will include a printable finish line and winners tape for those who want to “run the marathon” at home. Those who provide evidence of finishing the marathon in less than 6 hours will receive a program, T-shirt, medal, and runners bib; per tradition.

MLB

MLB Owners Move To Pass Proposal That Would Start Baseball Season In July

Major League Baseball (MLB) owners have created a proposal that they will be submitting to the players union that could potentially lead to a delayed baseball season that would begin around the Fourth of July, instead of June. The proposal comes as an obvious response to the coronavirus pandemic and indefinite cancellations of all major sporting events in the United States until this pandemic is over.

Spring training would likely start in early to mid-June if the proposal comes into fruition. However, MLB officials will need the stamp of approval from the players union before any decisions are made, and it’s expected that the union is gonna put up quite the fight to keep players home.

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“If you do anything that resembles a cap, that smells like a cap, you’ve given too much. A salary cap has been a non-starter for the players as long as I’ve been in baseball. I think when MLB is proposing a revenue split, it is with the full knowledge that the players’ union will automatically reject that,” said David Samson, former president of the Expos and Marlins.

The proposal claims that each player would play about 82 regular-season games against opponents within their own division. Postseason games would expand out from 10 clubs to 14 by “doubling wild cards in each league to four.” Teams are likely going to want to play at their regular-season ballparks, however, if MLB can’t get proper government approval to have home games, teams will have to switch to either spring training stadiums or any other neutral meeting sites.

“We’ll see where we will be in July, California is the home of five MLB clubs and [they’ve all] talked with baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. We certainly look forward to Major League Baseball and all sports resuming. But again, the question is when and that will be determined on the basis of public health and public safety and the spread of this virus,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom.

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Players, however, aren’t so convinced that we’ll be returning to a life of normalcy anytime soon, and based off what we’ve heard before in terms of professional athlete protections, most MLB players want what everyone wants; health protections for all players, families, staff, and employees involved. The logistics of ensuring everyone is consistently healthy while also having access to proper testing hasn’t even been mastered in America in general yet.

Teams will likely propose to have access to part of their 2020 salaries based on a split between what they would be making during regular and postseason. The proposal will also cover the concept of fans being able to return to ballparks at some point, which could involve inviting a few spectators at first and slowly increasing the number of bodies in the stands.

Most teams have already been given the chance to begin spring-training on their own, which many players have done, as opposed to travelling to be with their team. In March, the MLB called for each player to receive only a portion of their salary amid the pandemic. Players believe this specific agreement should still be followed as the basis for all future economic decisions involving MLB employees and players.

Again, the biggest concern is following proper health and safety guidelines and keeping everyone healthy while enduring a potential new baseball season. For now, only time will tell how all professional sports, along with the rest of the world, will be able to return to a life of normalcy.