How COVID-19 is Affecting Female Athletes, Women's Sports Leagues

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As the sports world has come to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, SI senior writer Jenny Vrentas says the hiatus might affect women's sports in profound ways.

"Salaries for female athletes are on the whole, lower than men, and because in many cases their opportunities for major sponsorship deals are fewer, they are economically not as well positioned to handle the sports world being put on pause," Vrentas says in Thursday's Point After.

"[But] when the sports world start spinning again, which it will, let's focus not only on how the men's leagues will resume play. It's the women's leagues and female athletes who, without our attention, are much more at risk of not being able to pick up where things left off." 

You can watch Vrentas's full take above. Here's a look at how COVID-19 is impacting some American women's sports leagues and athletes. 

NWSL:

The NWSL was supposed to kick off its season with a nationally televised game on CBS on Saturday, April 18, but the league delayed both its preseason training and start of the season amid the ongoing global heath crisis.

A number of the league's biggest stars, however, have taken part in PSAs alerting fans to the impact of the virus and giving them support through this trying time.

WNBA:

The WNBA plans to hold its draft as scheduled on April 17, but the league will conduct it virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per a release on Thursday morning, the league is weighing what to do with its schedule for the approaching season. Training camp is set to start on April 26 before the regular season tips off on May 15.

Impact on American Athletes Abroad:

Female athletes playing overseas have had to weigh how to handle the coronavirus pandemic. Here's a look at how one athlete, Atlanta Dream forward Monique Billings, has dealt with the situation. 

The following anecdote is excerpted from a recent story by Priya Desai for SI.com

"On March 1st, she headed to Hatay, Turkey to play for two months for the Turkish Women’s Basketball League (TKBL). Less than two weeks later sports leagues around the world were postponing seasons and some cancelling all together. Billings played the waiting game that crossed into the State Department warning.

Calling from her team facility in Turkey, she found herself in a state of confusion. “So this whole week has just been insane. The league has been like, okay, we're going to cancel it. We're not going to cancel it. We're going to cancel it. It's been so back and forth.” 

On Saturday she boarded a flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles and saw some familiar faces from the NBA and WNBA. “There were probably 10-15 other hoopers on my flight. It was like a reunion.”

Tennis: 

Last week, the WTA announced the suspension of its tour until June 7, postponing events that were supposed to be held in a variety of countries. 

"The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to professional tennis demand greater collaboration than ever from everyone in the tennis community, in order for the sport to move forward collectively in the best interest of players, tournaments and fans," the Tour said in a joint statement with the ATP World Tour.

The French Open, meanwhile, announced it would hold this year's event in the fall. The tournament normally begins in late May. 

Golf: 

The LPGA Tour has postponed six scheduled tournaments: the Volvik Founders Cup, Kia Classic, the Lotte Championship, Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, Mediheal LPGA Championship and the ANA Inspiration, the first major tournament of the year. 

The next Tour event on the schedule is the Pelican Women's Championship in Florida from May 14-17.

The LPGA Tour also recently announced that the ANA Inspiration has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-13 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. 

Olympics & More Sports:

After the postponement of the Olympics, many athletes took to social media to commend the IOC for its decision to postpone the Games.

"This is bigger than sports. This is bigger than an Olympics. I definitely think it's the right call," USWNT's Carli Lloyd told WPVI. "I think for the safety of everybody, it's definitely the best thing."

"As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country," star swimmer Katie Ledecky added. "Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy."

"Our dreams aren’t cancelled, they are just postponed. Looking forward to dreams coming true for athletes everywhere in 2021," middle-distance runner Emma Coburn tweeted.

Team USA indoor mile champion Colleen Quigley told Sports Illustrated Wednesday that, "A lot of the Team USA athletes took a poll just about a week ago asking how we've been handling this. Are we able to train? Do we feel safe? You know, trying to get a pulse on where everyone is at with it."

As of Thursday afternoon, there are nearly 490,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, causing nearly 22,000 deaths. In the United States, there are more than 75,000 confirmed cases.