Friday's coronavirus roundup: MLS weighs shorter season
Major League Soccer announced Friday it had extended its moratorium on games another four weeks, to June 8, adding for the first time that it is exploring changes in player compensation if a full 34-game season is not played.
“We are seeking to work collaboratively with the (players union) to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale,” the league said in a statement.
The league and the players union are discussing “significant salary cuts,” with the league seeking reductions of up to 50% if games are canceled, ESPN reported. That percentage could change based on games played and games played without fans in attendance.
Players making less than $100,000 this season would not be affected. Those proposals were debated during a conference call between league and union officials Thursday.
Earlier this month, the league said it was cutting the pay of some executives and front office personnel, including commissioner Don Garber and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott and Gary Stevenson, by 25%. Other league employees saw their salaries reduced by 10% to 20%.
Players in many other first-division leagues already have seen their pay cut, with some voluntarily donating portions of their salary to COVID-19 relief.
MLS teams played two games before the season was suspended March 12.
The league had originally planned to reopen after a month, but that date was quickly pushed back to May 10 before being pushed back for a second time Friday. A ban on team training sessions through April 27 also will be extended.
Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese said last week that playing a full schedule this season would be difficult.
“There’s a lot of travel involved,” he said, “and there’s different restrictions in different parts of the country. It makes it a challenge to generalize things to maybe come to a conclusion that you can put everybody together and just play as normal. We have to be creative.”
One creative option, te Kloese said, would be playing in empty stadiums. Several health officials also have said they don’t envision large public gatherings at sports event or concerts being practical for several months.
“It’s going to be a challenge to have a lot of people sitting together with the proper sanitary protection,” he said. “And until that comes along and there’s more testing with short-term results ... you need to take care of each roster.”
Commissioner Garber has said publicly his goal is to complete a full season, resuming games this summer and pushing the playoffs back at least a month.
Privately, however, several scenarios for a shortened season are being discussed.
“Major League Soccer remains focused on exploring a wide variety of formats for playing the entire 2020 season, including pushing back MLS Cup into December or later,” the league said in its statement Friday.
Sky's Dolson tests positive
Sky center Stefanie Dolson revealed she tested positive for the novel coronavirus during Friday night’s broadcast of the WNBA draft on ESPN.
Dolson becomes the first known Chicago professional athlete and the first known WNBA player to have contracted COVID-19.
In a video aired on ESPN, Dolson said: “This virus has hit pretty close to home. About a month ago, my whole family and I, we all tested positive for the virus and it hit us pretty hard. My mom, she ended up being admitted into the hospital for about four days. She had severe symptoms, pneumonia. But because of the team of healthcare workers that was there, she’s home safe now and healthy.
“So I just want to say thank you to all the healthcare workers out there. What you’re doing is inspirational and amazing, putting your lives at risk for us, and helping the community and the county. I just want to say thank you.”
Dolson didn’t share details about her own condition. The 2014 Mystics first-round draft pick has played in Chicago since 2017. The two-time WNBA All-Star re-signed with the Sky in February.
She ranked fourth in the league in field-goal percentage at 51.9% last season.
Premier League ponders completion
Premier League clubs discussed how the season can be completed when the government declares it is safe for sports to resume during the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s national lockdown was extended on Thursday for another three weeks, making it unclear when players can resume training or matches will be permitted, even without fans as is expected.
The league’s planning includes an awareness that it could only be possible to play when there is a sufficient availability of COVID-19 testing and medical services can be in place at stadiums that are not being relied on by the health to deal with the pandemic.
It is part of what the league calls “complex planning scenarios” being drawn up around timeframes to eventually be allowed to play with “full support” of government.
“The health and wellbeing of players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters are our priority and the league will only restart when medical guidance allows,” the Premier League said in a statement. “Today’s shareholders’ meeting (of the 20 clubs) provided an opportunity to discuss possible scheduling models. It remains our objective to complete the 2019/20 season but at this stage all dates are tentative while the impact of COVID-19 develops.”
NASCAR scratches Martinsville race
NASCAR postponed the May 9 race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, which is under a stay-at-home order into June.
NASCAR suspended its season four events into the year. It listed Martinsville as its first race to resume but acknowledged Friday it will not be able to hold the event.
NASCAR said it is still committed to running all 36 Cup Series races and will consider holding events without fans. To date, eight races have been postponed.
NASCAR has privately given teams a revised schedule in which racing would return at Charlotte on May 24.