Latest CDC guidelines would keep pro sports suspended for months

CDC recommends ban on public gatherings of 50 or more people

Desperate sports fans spent the weekend watching “30-for-30” reruns on ESPN or a handful of lackluster Premier League soccer matches. Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship bout between lightweights Kevin Lee and Charles Oliveira may have offered some reprieve.

But those were among the only viewing options available as all professional and collegiate sports teams in America kept operations suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And now it’s possible that the season’s shutdown could extend through May or beyond after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended canceling all public gatherings with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.

“CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers ... cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States,” the agency said in issuing new recommendations Sunday. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.”

The new eight-week time frame is longer than teams originally anticipated.

It easily exceeds what would have been the remainder of the NBA and NHL regular seasons, plus would cover about the first 25% of the MLB season — or roughly 40 games per team, according to The Associated Press. It would also cast serious doubt on the ability to hold other major U.S. sporting events as planned, such as the Kentucky Derby in early May, the AP reported.

Later Monday, President Donald Trump advised Americans to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people, saying it could be July or August before the virus subsides.

The last time Americans saw any of the major sports was March 12, the day Major League Baseball canceled the rest of its spring training games.

The Braves were able to meet a 4 p.m. deadline that day against the Tigers, winning 5-3, but eight other later contests were called off.

The league also announced Monday it would push back the start of the regular season eight weeks, after initially saying it would be delayed only two weeks.

The NBA was the first professional sports league to suspend its regular season after one of its players, Utah's Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday.

His teammate, Donovan Mitchell, and Detroit’s Christian Wood have also tested positive in the days since.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to suspend the season came two days before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency about the virus.

The NBA’s unprecedented move to halt games for 30 days was closely followed by MLB, NHL, XFL and Major League Soccer. The PGA postponed the Masters in Augusta. The Boston Marathon was rescheduled for September, and perhaps most notably, the NCAA canceled the upcoming March Madness tournament, including the Final Four in Atlanta.

This is the first year the tournament will not be played since its start in 1939.

The NFL has canceled public events surrounding the draft next month in Las Vegas, according to ESPN.

As of Monday, no professional league had called off its entire season.

The AP reported the NBA has sent teams a memo saying players can leave their home markets during the shutdown. But if those players leave for another market, they must do so after coordinating plans with their teams and medical advisers.

The memo also told teams formal practices will remain off indefinitely, individual workouts at team facilities may continue and detailed other safeguards teams should take at this point, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the memo had not been released publicly.

The NBA has already been asking teams to share availability for their arenas through the end of July, a sign the league is prepared to extend the season at least that long if necessary — and those moves came a couple of days before the CDC made its latest recommendation. The NBA regular season was to have ended April 15 ,and the NBA Finals were to have started June 4, with the season done on or before June 21.

— Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.