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Timeline: How Coronavirus is Upending the Sports World

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The spread of COVID-19 is affecting nearly every aspect of American and global life, and the sports world is no exception. 

There are more than 130,000 confirmed cases of the virus globally across at least 111 countries, with nearly 5,000 deaths. In the U.S., there have been more than 1,400 confirmed cases, with at least 38 patients dead.

The virus—which the World Health Organization has classified as a pandemic—has disrupted the sports calendar more than any event in recent memory. Several leagues have suspended their seasons, and a number of events—including, most notably, March Madness—have been canceled. 

Here’s a look at how the coronavirus has affected sports over the last few weeks. 

January 7: WHO officials announced they had identified a new virus called 2019-nCoV, belonging to the coronavirus family that encompasses SARS and the common cold. The virus originated in Wuhan, China, where health authorities had started treating cases in late 2019. 

January 28: Miami (Ohio) postponed their men’s and women’s basketball games amid potential coronavirus threats. Ultimately, each team missed just one game in what amounted to a false alarm.

January 29: The World Indoor Track and Field championships were due to be held in Nanjing, China from March 13-15, but were postponed to March 2021 due to fear over COVID-19. 

January 31: The number of coronavirus cases (more than 10,000) surpassed the amount of cases for the 2003 SARS epidemic. 

February 4: Ten cases of COVID-19 were found on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The ship was quarantined off the port of Yokohama, Japan.

February 13: Olympic officials reaffirmed their commitment to holding the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo over the summer. “I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear,” organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said in Japanese.

The 15th case of coronavirus in the U.S. was announced.

February 23: Three Serie A matches were suspended due to the spread of coronavirus in Italy. At that time, Italy reported 39 cases, with all of them coming in the region of Lombardy.

February 24: The Italian government declared that all sporting events should be held behind closed doors amid the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases had skyrocketed to more than 200 people, with at least five deceased.

February 28: The CDC announced that the first American case of unknown origin was found—the first American case stemming from "community spread."

March 1: The first non-Chinese sporting event that took place without fans as a result of coronavirus took place in Italy with a matchup between Juventus and Inter Milan. At that point, Italy had at least 650 cases of the virus, with at least 15 dead. 

March 2: The amount of confirmed cases in the United States surpassed 100. 

The National College Players Association, an unofficial advocacy group for collegiate athletes, implored the NCAA to host March Madness without fans amid COVID-19 concerns. The U.S. had at least 80 cases of COVID-19 at the time. 

March 3: The NBA’s league office issued a memo recommending players use fist bumps in lieu of high fives with fans and teammates. Players were also advised not to touch pens, balls and jerseys presented by fans for autographs. 

March 4: Chicago State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams canceled their remaining games over coronavirus concerns. Chicago State said that it was making the move with the “health and well-being of the campus community in mind.” The decision was the first of its kind in the United States. 

The Italian government announced that every sporting event would take place behind closed doors until April 2. At that point, more than 100 people had died and more than 3,000 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the country. 

March 5: At least 696 out of the 3,711 aboard the Diamond Princess test positive for COVID-19 after spending a month at sea in quarantine. There are at least seven dead. 

A former Denmark international tested positive for COVID-19. Thomas Kahlenberg, who represented the country in the 2010 World Cup, was put under quarantine after returning from a trip to Amsterdam. 

The Premier League banned the fair-play handshake—customary before every game—amid growing coronavirus concerns. 

A part-time CenturyLink Field employee who worked at an XFL game in Seattle on Feb. 22 tested positive for the virus

March 6: Ten U.S. states reported their first cases of the coronavirus, while the total number of confirmed cases worldwide surpassed 100,000. 

Spectators were banned from a Division III basketball tournament hosted on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

LeBron James said he was not fond of the idea of playing with no fans in attendance. “We play games without the fans? Nah, that's impossible,” James told reporters. “I ain't playing if I ain't got the fans in the crowd—that's who I play for.”

March 7: The NBA told teams to prepare for games without fans. 

March 9: UEFA announced that a Champions League game between PSG and Borussia Dortmund would be held without fans, the first Champions League game to be played behind closed doors because of coronavirus. 

The NBA, MLB and NHL closed their locker rooms to media due to the virus. Reporters would have to ask questions in a press conference setting, at least six to eight feet away from subjects. 

Indian Wells, one of the most prominent events in tennis, was canceled, the first major sporting event to be scrapped because of the virus.

March 10: The first semi-containment zone in the United States was announced in New York for New Rochelle, which had more than 80 cases. 

The Ivy League canceled its conference tournament. The teams that ended the regular season with the best records—Yale for the men’s and Princeton for the women’s–were declared the winners. Later, the league’s players attempted a futile attempt to reinstate the tournament with an online petition.

MLS joined the NBA, MLB and NHL in closing their locker rooms down to media. 

LeBron James walked back his aversion to playing games without fans in attendance. "When I was asked the question...I had no idea there was a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus," James said. "I would be very disappointed because that's [who] I play for." 

The Premier League postponed a March 11 match between Manchester City and Arsenal. The news came after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted coronavirus just over 10 days after Arsenal played Olympiacos at the Emirates.

March 11: Wednesday, March 11 saw the sports world's response escalate dramatically. The day ended with the NBA suspending its season, but here's how the day played out.

The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. 

MLB started to consider alternative sites for coronavirus. They also went through a number of contingency plans, such as playing road games as home games or moving games to less affected areas. MLB was particularly averse to playing games before an empty stadium. 

The NBA considered the same initiatives. They contemplated whether to move games to less affected areas, play games without fans, postpone the season or cancel the season altogether. 

The Warriors announced they would play home games without fans with the foreseeable future after San Francisco officials banned any public gathering of more than 1,000 people. 

The Ivy League canceled all spring sports. The league will likely request a blanket waiver for an additional year of eligibility for all players affected. 

The NCAA announced it would hold March Madness without fans after days of pressure to do so. 

Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, issued a state order prohibiting fans from attending indoor sporting events in Ohio. DeWine issued a state of emergency the same day. The decree directly affected March Madness, which was due to host the first and second rounds of their tournament in Cleveland. It also affected home games for the Cavaliers and Blue Jackets.

Juventus defender and Italian national team member Daniele Rugani tested positive for COVID-19. 

Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. The news followed the abrupt cancelation of a game between the Jazz and Thunder. 

The NBA promptly suspended its season indefinitely. 

Five NBA teams quarantined after potential exposure to coronavirus from Gobert. The Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors all took the initiative after having played the Jazz in the prior 10 days.

March 12: Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the coronavirus, one day after teammate Rudy Gobert's positive test. 

MLS suspended its season for 30 days. 

The ATP shut down for six weeks after days of pressure from players and tournament officials. The ITF acted far more swiftly, canceling the Fed Cup finals days prior. 

U.S. Soccer called off all of its men’s national team and women’s national team friendlies

Every power conference in the NCAA canceled their conference tournaments. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East, ACC, Big 12 and SEC decided to end their seasons because of the coronavirus.

Multiple NFL teams limited travel for all coaches and scouts. As a part of this initiative, all NFL staffers except for “operationally critical staff” will work from home until further notice. 

The NHL announced that it would suspend its season indefinitely. "After consulting with medical experts and converting a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 season, beginning with tonight's game," the NHL said in a statement. 

MLB announced that it would delay the beginning of the season for a minimum of two weeks.

UEFA canceled Champions League games for the first time this cycle. Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon were postponed with no makeup date announced.

The NBA announced that they would suspend play for at least 30 days before reassessing. 

The NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments were canceled. "This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement. The cancelation marks the first year the NCAA tournament has not been played since its inception in 1939. That year, the event featured only eight teams, and Oregon beat Ohio State to win the first championship.

Rudy Gobert apologized to the “people that I endangered” before his coronavirus diagnosis. Prior to testing positive on Thursday, Gobert touched the microphones of every Jazz beat reporter to make light of the virus.

On Thursday evening, Arsenal announced that manager Mikel Arteta had contracted the virus. The news came just moments after the Premier League said that all games would proceed as normal over the weekend. 

After one round of the Players Championship, the PGA Tour Thursday night canceled all events until the Masters, beginning April 9.

UFC president Dana White announced that Saturday night's Fight Night 170 event will proceed in an empty arena, in Brazil.