The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- Orlando Pride pulls out of NWSL Challenge Cup after positive tests
- Striker Jozy Altidore back with Toronto FC, fulfilling quarantine
- PGA Championship to be contested minus fans
- NFL mandates teams set up tiered facility access: report
- WNBA all-star Jonquel Jones to sit out season due to virus concerns
- ATP men’s tennis adjusting COVID-19 protocols
- Andy Murray lists U.S. Open, French Open as priorities
Pride pulls out of NWSL Challenge Cup
The Orlando Pride have withdrawn from the NWSL Challenge Cup after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The Pride said those affected were asymptomatic, adding “it would be in the best interest of the health and safety of the players, the staff and the rest of the league that the Pride voluntarily withdraw.”
The NWSL is the first major North American league to return to action, with all nine teams set to compete in the tournament which starts June 27 in Utah.
The league said the tournament will go ahead with eight teams.
Altidore reports to Toronto FC, training in quarantine
All of Toronto FC’s players are back at the club’s north Toronto training centre with the return of star striker Jozy Altidore.
The U.S. international had been at his Florida home until last Wednesday when he came north via private jet to rejoin the team. A club spokesman said Altidore is training on his own while fulfilling a two-week quarantine and will rejoin the club’s full training sessions when that is over.
Toronto and the other 25 teams are preparing for the “MLS is Back Tournament,” which runs July through Aug. 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in the Orlando area.
Toronto, Montreal, New England and D.C. United are in Group C at the World Cup-style tournament.
The MLS tournament, which will be played before empty stands, marks resumption to the league’s 25th season, which was halted March 12 after two rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PGA Championship to go ahead without fans
The PGA Championship will be held in August without spectators, the tour said on Monday, citing health and safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of golf’s four majors, the event was previously postponed from its originally scheduled May date at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco because of the scale of the outbreak.
“While the local community cannot be with us physically on-site, we will certainly carry their spirit of resilience and unity with us as we stage our major championship,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.
Ticket-holders who purchased directly from PGA of America will be contacted in the coming days regarding refunds for the event, which is expected to run from Aug. 3-9, with two-time champion Brooks Koepka seeking a third consecutive win.
NFL mandates teams set up tiered facility access: report
A memo obtained by ESPN from the NFL outlines the league’s mandate that all 32 teams set up tiered access for all employees.
It’s believed each team must submit a list of all employees and their access approval before training camp begins, the latest step designed to promote health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
All NFL teams are due to report to training camp in five weeks, with 26 scheduled for a uniform report date of July 28.
The “tiers” differentiate which employees can access which areas of a team’s facility, including the dining hall, practice fields, locker room, training room, meeting rooms, press area and beyond.
They are as follows:
Tier 1: Players, coaches, trainers, physicians and necessary personnel requiring direct access to the players.
Tier 2: General managers, team presidents, football operations employees, other assistant coaches, video personnel, security and other essential personnel who may need to be in close proximity to the players and other Tier 1 individuals who may need to access restricted areas. Only individuals assigned to Tiers 1 and 2 will be permitted access to restricted areas, and there will be limits on the number of individuals from each team that can be assigned Tier 1 and Tier 2 access at any given time.
Tier 3: Operational personnel, in-house media and broadcast personnel, field managers, transportation providers and individuals who perform essential facility, stadium or event services but do not require close contact with Tier 1 individuals. Team and other personnel who work exclusively in areas of team facilities that are cordoned off from the rest of the facility do not need to be credentialed in one of the three access tiers.
Jonquel Jones to skip WNBA season due to virus concerns
Twice WNBA all-star Jonquel Jones has decided to opt out of the upcoming season, citing concerns over the novel coronavirus.
The WNBA is set to hold its 2020 season at a single site in Florida in a fan-less setting with health and safety protocols in place, holding 22 regular season games followed by a traditional playoff format and best-of-five series for the semis and finals.
Florida is among the U.S. states that saw a record spike in new COVID-19 cases last week, and positive tests among players prompted the closure of some MLB and NHL facilities in the state, denting hopes for the return of professional sports in North America.
“This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made,” said 26-year-old centre Jones, who last season helped take the Connecticut Sun to its first Finals since 2005. “The resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in.”
The Sun said it supported Jones, who led the league in total rebounds and blocks last year.
Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery had already said she would sit out the season to focus on social justice reform after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
ATP men’s tennis adjusting COVID-19 protocols
The ATP men’s tennis tour says it is continuing to “plan and adjust” its precautions and protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic with an eye to its planned Aug. 14 resumption of competition.
The tour issued a statement Monday following word that two top-35 players tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in unsanctioned exhibition matches organized by No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Serbia and Croatia.
There were no social distancing measures observed at the Adria Tour exhibitions.
Three-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov, who is currently No. 19, and his opponent in Croatia on Saturday, No. 33 Borna Coric, both said they have COVID-19.
The ATP said it “continues to urge strict adherence to responsible social distancing and health and safety guidelines to contain the spread of the virus.”
Andy Murray says priority is to play U.S. Open, French Open
Former world No. 1 Andy Murray says he is looking forward to competing at the U.S. Open and French Open later this year but only if it is safe enough amid the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the sport in March.
The U.S. Open will be staged without fans as scheduled from Aug. 31-Sept. 13 in New York while the postponed French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11.
“Playing the Grand Slams would be my priority,” Murray was quoted as saying by British media on Monday. “I think the schedule is tricky and I understand the reason why it is like that. I don’t mind what the situation is, providing it is safe.”
Murray, 33, has not competed since playing in the Davis Cup in November due to complications with his hip but is set to return on Tuesday at a behind-closed-doors tournament in London, the ‘Battle of the Brits’, organized by his brother Jamie.
“My hip has been feeling better for probably the past three or four weeks. It feels better than it did in March,” he said.