The Coronavirus Doesn’t Care When Sports Come Back


During the global recession a decade ago, the challenge for sports teams was the limited ability of fans and businesses to spend on tickets and advertising, said Marc Ganis, a consultant who advises N.F.L., N.B.A. and M.L.B. teams. “This time is completely different because it involves whether fans will feel comfortable sitting among strangers,” he said. “It’s not just a financial challenge, it’s a health problem.”

Leaders of the sports leagues have been speaking with Mr. Trump, and some are part of a task force on restarting the economy.

Televised baseball games with no one in the stands may be good for the American soul, but it will hurt Major League Baseball’s bottom line, even at a time when the sport’s finances have become increasingly tied to television coverage. In 2019, M.L.B. revenue grew to $10.7 billion, yet the game again struggled to draw fans to stadiums. In the absence of ticket sales, players would be under pressure to take pay cuts while risking their health and perhaps that of their families.

After the season was postponed, the league and the players’ association reached an agreement for teams to advance $170 million of the year’s $4 billion in total salaries through May 24. The players agreed to give up the remainder of their salaries if the season were lost, while still receiving full service-time credit that would help them earn more money in future seasons. Going forward with a plan to play in empty stadiums would require another negotiation.

M.L.B. officials say Arizona, where half of the league holds its spring training, has enough hotel rooms and baseball diamonds to put on some version of The Show. They estimate that some 3,000 people probably would need to be tested regularly — players, club staff members, umpires and the broadcast contingent.

“What are you going to do with family members?” asked Mike Trout, the sport’s biggest star, whose salary breaks down to $222,222 per game.

“My wife is pregnant, what am I going to do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Because obviously I can’t miss that birth of our first child. So, there’s a lot of red flags, there’s a lot of questions,” Mr. Trout said in an interview on NBC Sports Network. “Obviously, we would have to agree on it as players. But I think the mentality is we want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it’s got to be realistic.”



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