COVID-19 positive tests lead to NFL, NBA, NHL postponements

December 17, 2021
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will miss Saturday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders.


COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across many professional sports leagues as the NFL, NHL and NBA struggle to contain outbreaks. 

Nearly 100 NFL players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Monday, the league’s most significant outbreak since the pandemic started in spring 2020. At least 39 NBA players were in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols by Thursday evening, while the NHL shut down three teams through the holiday break to curb the spread.

COVID-19 is once again disrupting sports schedules, forcing postponements and cancellations. Here’s what you need to know about upcoming schedule changes:


The outbreak has prompted the league to place all 32 teams in intensive COVID-19 protocols until Week 16, but some teams have been hit harder than others, particularly the Cleveland Browns,Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Rams, who each have more than 20 players on the COVID-19 reserve list.

The NFL made it clear it wouldn’t postpone games over a competitive disadvantage, but the league and NFLPA agreed to reschedule three key weekend matchups because of safety risks.

WEEK 15 POSTPONMENTS: Browns-Raiders, Rams-Seahawks, WFT-Eagles games postponed and moved to Monday, Tuesday

Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns

The Browns’ game against the Las Vegas Raiders has been postponed to Monday at 5 p.m. ET. 

Cleveland has more than 20 players on the COVID-19 reserve list, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, backup quarterback Case Keenum, receiver Jarvis Landry and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who all tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

The outbreak is not isolated to players: Head coach Kevin Stefanski has also tested positive, along with acting running backs coach Ryan Cordell.

BROWNS:Keenum tests positive, team turns to third-string QB Nick Mullens

Mayfield and Landry called for the league to postpone the game. Mayfield accused the league of trying to “keep the game as scheduled to make money.”

“Actually caring about player safety would mean delaying the game with this continuing at the rate it is,” Mayfield tweeted Thursday in response to NFL’s updated COVID protocols, which opened the door for a quicker return for vaccinated players.

In response to a Twitter post that questioned whether the NFL should postpone the Browns-Raiders matchup, Landry tweeted, “Should not even be a question !! YES.”

‘MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND’:Mayfield sounds off on NFL’s COVID protocols

Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles

The Washington Football Team’s game at Philadelphia has been moved to Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

WFT has 21 players on the COVID-19 reserve list, including starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who tested positive this week. Backup Kyle Allen is also on the COVID-19 reserve list.

WASHINGTON:Down to practice squad QB as Heinicke tests positive for COVID

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams’ game versus the visiting Seattle Seahawks has been moved to Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

Nearly half of the active players on the Rams are on the COVID-19 list.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey, safety Jordan Fuller, offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and linebacker Von Miller are among the 25 players from the roster and practice squad that have been added since Saturday. 

WHAT WE KNOW:About the Los Angeles Rams’ COVID-19 outbreak


On Friday, the league announced that all games for the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames will be postponed through at least Dec. 23. The teams’  training facilities have all been closed.

The league, which has a nearly 100% vaccination rate among players, made the move because of “concern with the number of positive cases within the last two days as well concern for continued COVID spread in the coming days.”

Saturday’s Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens game was also postponed.


The league has enhanced health and safety protocols, including increased testing and mask policies, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that has left Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and more in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

As of Thursday evening, roughly 8% of the league’s total player roster was in COVID-19 health and safety protocols ahead of next week’s marquee Christmas Day lineup. But an imminent pause in the season is not being considered at this time.

Several teams, including the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, have been hit hardest by the virus.

Chicago Bulls

The NBA has postponed two Bulls games this week, marking the first games to be pushed back this season. The Bulls’ G League team, the Windy City Bulls, have had games canceled. They also won’t participate in the G League Winter Showcase Dec. 19-22.

At one point, the Bulls had 10 players in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“We got hit really hard with all this and we lost a lot of players,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Thursday. “Other teams have maybe been hit a little bit, but not as much.”

For now, they’re scheduled to return to play Sunday at home against the Lakers.

College Basketball

UCLA vs. North Carolina

UCLA bowed out of the CBS Sports Classic against North Carolina on Saturday due to COVID-19 issues. The Bruins announced on Twitter Friday that their “team-related activities have been paused” and “the status of future games is to be determined.”

North Carolina will now face Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Duke vs. Cleveland State 

Duke’s final nonconference game Saturday against Cleveland State has been canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Vikings program.

The game has been canceled but No. 2 Duke (8-1) will look to find a replacement opponent over the coming days.

Seton Hall vs. Iona

Saturday’s game between No. 16 Seton Hall and Iona at Madison Square Garden has been canceled due to COVID issues within the Pirates’ program.

“Due to COVID-19 protocols within the Seton Hall men’s basketball program, Saturday’s Gotham Classic game against Iona at Madison Square Garden has been canceled,” the athletic department announced Thursday. “The status of future games will be determined at a later date.”

Seton Hall men’s basketballa COVID scratch vs. Iona, could Big East forfeits be next?

Contributing: Scooby Axson, Lorenzo Reyes, Mike Jones, Jeff Zillgitt


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