As it currently stands, the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL are all expected to return to action in some capacity by August. The NHL is returning August 1 and will be going straight into a 24-team playoff after the original season was suspended March 12. The games will be taking place exclusively in Edmonton and Toronto, Canada. The NBA, who saw its season suspended March 11, is currently having 22 teams stay at what they are calling a “bubble” at the Walt Disney Complex of Sports. The NBA is having three scrimmages (which are occurring now) and eight regular-season games for seedings, and then moving straight to the playoffs. MLB, whose season’s start was put on hold because of the pandemic, is scheduled to return July 23, when the New York Yankees face off against the Washington Nationals. It should be noted that MLB is not following the same protocol as the NHL and NBA in terms of using a “bubble.” Instead, each team is using their own ballparks to play games, except for the Toronto Blue Jays.
This past Saturday, the Blue Jays were denied by the Canadian Government to play at their home field, the Rogers Centre. Once that was learned, the Blue Jays acted quickly and they were rumored to have an agreement to use the Pittsburgh Pirates Stadium, PNC Park. However, on July 22 the Pennsylvania Department of Health denied the Blue Jays’ request to use the Pirates Stadium. Despite the team having a private agreement with the Pirates to use the ballpark, the State of Pennsylvania gets to have the final say. The question now is whether the Blue Jays will be able to use another team’s ballpark as their home field, such as Baltimore’s Camden Yards.
There is also the chance that the Blue Jays will just end up playing all of their games on the road. While that may be the case, it’s hard to believe that the Blue Jays organization and MLB were so disorganized when trying to find the team a ballpark. This should have been handled months ago, not two days before the season is slated to start. One would think that with all the resources, money, and employees, Major League Baseball and the Blue Jays have that there would have been a plan in place at least a month ago.
Unfortunately, MLB isn’t the only American Professional Sports league that seems unprepared for the circumstances. The NFL has yet to release a full plan with protocols, and structure for how training camp is going to go, let alone the regular season, which is scheduled to return at the beginning of September. Interestingly, NFL training camp is scheduled to return July 28. Over the weekend, multiple star players in the league voiced their displeasure with the NFL and how they are handling protocol for training camp and the regular season. These players are upset because they feel that there isn’t a clear plan. Among the players to voice their displeasure was Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson. On July 19, Wilson tweeted, “I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. […] We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay“ (NFL)
The NFL and MLB should take notes on how the NHL and NBA are handling protocols to return, or else the situation is likely to get messier than it already is. Hopefully the players and staff will be able to figure out ways to keep themselves safe during the uncertain situation.