Sports

Coronavirus has left unprecedented mark on sports. How has it impacted South Florida?

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The coronavirus has left an unprecedented mark on the sports world.

From the suspension of the NBA, NHL and MLS seasons, the cancellation of March Madness, the postponement of MLB’s Opening Day and the list goes on, sports has come to a screeching halt.

Every South Florida team has been affected. The Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, Florida Panthers, Inter Miami and Miami Hurricanes are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, the Miami Open tennis tournament was canceled. And another local sporting event, the NASCAR race in Homestead next week, will still run as scheduled, but without fans in attendance.

Gulfstream is still racing, but there will be no spectators allowed starting Friday. The Florida Derby is still on. The FIU Panthers are still expected to hold spring practices next week, but with no fans in attendance.

Also, PGA Tour events will proceed as scheduled, but without fans starting Friday. This will last through the Valero Texas Open, which ends April 5.

Here’s a look at how all of the cancellations and postponements affect the South Florida sports landscape ...

MIAMI HEAT

The NBA decided to suspend the season Wednesday night until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The move came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the cancellation of Wednesday’s Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game. And on Thursday, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the coronavirus.

The NBA said in a statement that it “will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Heat players are being encouraged to remain in South Florida to avoid travel and remain prepared for the possibility of the continuation of the season.

As for tickets, there will be no refunds for season-ticket holders at the moment because the hope is the games will be played at some point. For individual game tickets, the NBA is working directly with Ticketmaster to figure out what can be done for fans who are unable to attend rescheduled games.

MIAMI MARLINS

Major League Baseball’s announcement that it was suspending spring training and postponing Opening Day for the 2020 season came in the seventh inning of the Miami Marlins’ 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Thursday.

“We talked about making adjustments,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “and this is part of it. We knew there was going to be something coming down. We had a pretty good feeling with everything that’s been happening in the country and the world. We’ll get our ducks in a row.”

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement that the Marlins support commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision, adding the Marlins will make additional announcements, including those regarding ticket information, at a later date.

“This is an unprecedented time and this is certainly an unprecedented decision that was made in the best interest of players, fans and communities across the country,” Jeter said. “We urge everyone to continue to exercise the preventive measures set forth by the CDC and stay informed regarding the latest developments on the virus.”

MIAMI HURRICANES

The ACC, the NCAA’s league to which the University of Miami belongs, released a statement Thursday afternoon that it “has suspended all athletic related activities including all competition, formal and organized practice, recruiting and participation in NCAA championships until further notice.

“The decision was made following consultation with the league’s presidents and athletic directors to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.’’

For Miami, that means its baseball team (12-4), ranked as high as fifth in the nation by Baseball America, will possibly go without finishing one of its most promising seasons in years.

And Hurricanes spring football practice had its first four of 15 sessions last week before it broke for spring break. The Canes football program was to resume practice on Tuesday , but this edict obviously has put a close to football practice for now.

UM’s spring football game had been scheduled for April 11, but is in limbo until further notice.

The UM Sports Hall of Fame already postponed its induction banquet, originally scheduled for April 2.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Miami Dolphins on Thursday joined the growing list of NFL franchises to temporarily suspend pre-draft travel for all scouts and coaches as the world of football scrambles to address the spiraling coronavirus pandemic.

“The safety of everyone associated with the Miami Dolphins is of the utmost importance,” the team announced in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take advice from our medical staff and public officials.”

Meanwhile, teams around the NFL are canceling draftee facility visits, the league canceled its annual meeting and the Eagles on Thursday became the first team to shut down their headquarters and stadium.

The annual meeting was set to be held in Palm Beach on March 29-April 1, with all expected official business delayed until the league’s May meeting in Marina del Rey, California. Coaches and general managers are expected to attend that May conference, the league announced.

“The decision was made consistent with the league’s primary concern to protect the health of club and league employees and the public while enabling the league to continue with its essential business operations,” the NFL said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor developments, consult with leading experts and be prepared to make any changed necessary as circumstances warrant.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS

On Wednesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks both announced they planned to play their home games without any fans in the arena.

Earlier Thursday, the NHL told teams not to practice as it weighed its options. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the NHL announced it would follow the NBA’s lead and suspend play for an indefinite period of time.

INTER MIAMI

Inter Miami players, fans and owners will have to wait at least a month longer for the team’s highly anticipated home debut. Major League Soccer on Thursday suspended its season for at least 30 days, the latest in a cascade of sports cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus epidemic.

The news came 48 hours before Inter Miami was scheduled to play its inaugural home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Team officials were in the middle of a media tour of the team’s new 19,000-seat stadium when the news broke.

“We’ve made a decision as a league this morning, as owners, that play will be suspended temporarily,” Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said in a news conference after informing the players and coaches. “We are targeting 30 days, which means Inter Miami will not be playing its home opener on Saturday. We were 48 hours from kickoff, expecting a full house, and there was a lot of excitement. That won’t change. It will just will be on different day and date.“

MIAMI OPEN

The 2020 Miami Open, which would have featured nearly all of the top tennis players in the world, was canceled as a precaution because of the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 300,000 fans attend the tournament annually. Last year, the 12-day attendance at Hard Rock Stadium was 388,734. Among the players scheduled to participate: Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Coco Gauff, Sofia Kenin and Ashley Barty.

Tournament director James Blake said: “We were looking forward to hosting another world-class event, but our priority remains the health and safety of everyone involved in the Miami Open, including the South Florida community. As a former player and now tournament director, I understand how disappointing it is for the players, fans, partners and tournament staff who worked tirelessly to get the site ready. We thank everyone for their understanding and support and look forward to returning to Hard Rock Stadium March 22 – April 4, 2021.”

The tournament will contact ticket holders in the coming days regarding refunds.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The NCAA announced Thursday the cancellation of the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the coronavirus, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.

A statement from the NCAA read: “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.”

Most men’s basketball conference tournaments were also canceled.

On Wednesday, the NCAA said it was still planning to hold its men’s basketball tournament next week, but only with essential staff and limited family members in attendance. Those plans changed Thursday.

NASCAR

NASCAR still plans to run its races in Atlanta and Homestead the next two weekends, the association announced Thursday, but without fans in attendance. NASCAR still plans to run all three previously scheduled races at Homestead-Miami Speedway from March 20-22, including the Dixie Vodka 400, a spokesperson for the track said.

Fans who had already purchased tickets to the races, “will receive a credit for the full amount paid towards any admissions including grandstand seating, infield, camping, fan hospitality, pit passes, etc., subject to availability,” according to a statement spent by a track spokesperson. “The credit can be used for the balance of the 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any NASCAR-owned track.” Details about the process for redeeming the credit will be made available by the end of Saturday.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Athletic travel in Broward is suspended starting Monday, according to Broward county school superintendent Robert Runcie.

Sports are continuing for now in Miami-Dade, per superintendent Alberto Carvalho. Out-of-county travel will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The Florida High School Athletic Association said in a statement Thursday that it monitoring developments, but no decisions have been made regarding the remaining state championships.

The following Miami Herald reporters contributed to this report: Susan Miller Degnan, Michelle Kaufman, David Wilson, Jordan McPherson, Adam H. Beasley and Jason Dill.

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