We rate four league commissioners as to how they dealt with protocols in the age of the coronavirus or how they went too far.
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The NBA will resume its 2019-20 campaign later tonight when the pelicans Utah Jazz and New Orleans give a tip at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World. The league's approach, adhering to a 113-page protocol document describing strict isolation and mitigation measures, has been described as operating within a "bubble". NBA commissioner Adam Silver does not support this sentence, but he must be pleased with the praise that is given to him, especially shortly after the announcement that exactly zero of his players have tested positive for corona virus in the past two weeks. (The WNBA, which started playing on July 25, is stationed in a similar bubble setup at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, although the reviews of their accommodations are mixed at best and several players only tested positive three weeks earlier became a competition.)
In Major League Baseball, meanwhile, far more flexible parameters for the off-field movements of the players were specified before a shortened 60-game ledger was launched on July 24. And even one club – the Miami Marlins – was hit by an outbreak that left 17 players and two coaches out at the time of this writing, seriously endangering his and MLB's new season.
With the NHL experimenting with a raging playoff format taking place entirely in Canada this weekend, and the NFL promising to continue as usual on September 10th, it's not too early to judge how each of the four big ones American professional sports work. Commissioners have acquitted themselves as leaders. Without further delay – whether it is believed that this whole conversation should be postponed until 2021 or not – we assess the stance of the ultimate shooter-era pandemic.
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The League: Major League Baseball
The Commissioner: Rob Manfred
How does he lead? It was not an easy half a decade for Manfred, who had just survived the controversy surrounding the theft of signs by the Houston Astros before the pandemic torpedoed his 2020 season in the middle of spring training. He struggled with a stubborn player union that was pretty adamant about limiting comings and goings outside the field, but ultimately MLB's mitigation efforts – which are largely based on individual accountability when clubs are from a regional city Traveling to the next and trying to contain familiar, sensitive rituals in the game are far too susceptible to the spread of viruses, as we have already seen. And although laissez faire managers and undisciplined players don't help, it is Manfred who looks most exposed as the ineffective administrator.
The league: NHL
The Commissioner: Gary Bettman
How does he lead? Exceptionally, the often malicious long-time leader of the league looks ahead in comparison. The decision to move north of the border – at two locations in Edmonton and Toronto – for a fast and fast playoff tournament with 24 teams makes both practical sense and anticipation of what is already the most watched series of games in the NHL. And given the fact that MLB's only Canada-based franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, wasn't even in order to set up in the country and were banned to Buffalo, New York, Bettman's early commitment to getting out of the dodge sees downright awesome. As for his boast that 2020-21 will be hiccup free, he sounds a bit more like the next guy in our file.
Note: B +
The league: NFL
The Commissioner: Roger Goodell
How does he lead? Well, a front – acknowledgment of players' rights to express their feelings about what is going on in the world outside of rust – Goodell has finally developed beyond his reputation for being hopelessly affected by the desires and wealth of team owners . Nonetheless, he and the NFL were characteristic of the pandemic, hyping draft picks, and free agent activities as they were in 1999 from the jump, and pushed plans for a stable 17-week schedule in all 31 stadiums of the fans is damned (although they have been slow to admit this harsh truth). And even this month, the players voiced their unprotected exposure to the associated risks, which led to the assurance of more robust testing procedures. In fact, the NFL is MLB-inverted: players are forcing their league to properly isolate them from the virus (there have been dozens of positive cases that went to training camps) despite Goodell and the NFL's comparatively carefree tone. We'll see how Goodell responds when a Marlins-like crisis occurs, but for the time being he's mainly taking pointers from his staff rather than setting a comforting course.
Note: C +
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The league: NBA
The Commissioner: Adam Silver
How does he lead: by example. And definitely. As previously mentioned, he directed the immediate compilation of comprehensive instructions on how all players and staff should behave. And this thing is detailed, down to who can swim in which pool of the complex and how to get snacks properly. Silver had some hoarding of tests in March when public access to them was scattered, and there is certainly still a pertinent debate over whether sports should be prioritized by private laboratories as the number of cases increases across the country . But the local facts are that sport is back, whether it's our personal preference or not. And Silver has at least played a pioneering role in ensuring that his league is not responsible for increasing distribution in the community and further burdening frontline workers. The fact that he has the virtually undisputed support of the biggest stars in the league speaks for their values as well as for Silver's influence, but given the fact that the NBA was once a warning coronavirus story (see: Rudy Gobert), the turning point is perceived and reality remarkable.