Coronavirus and sports: Fans banned from March Madness games and other impacted events

An NBA game will go on at a crowdless stadium; Ivy League makes a big change.

As more people across the United States test positive for the novel coronavirus, the health emergency is forcing changes to major sporting events, from the NCAA to the Ivy League.

Fans banned from NCAA games

Days ahead of the start of March Madness, the NCAA president said fans will be banned from “upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family” there.

“While I understate how disappointing this is for all fans,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday, “my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing.”

Ivy League cancels springs athletics

The Ivy League on Wednesday canceled all games and practices through the rest of this academic year.

“In accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals, several Ivy League institutions have announced that students will not return to campus after spring break, and classes will be held virtually during the semester,” the council of presidents said in a statement. “Given this situation, it is not feasible for practice and competition to continue.”

Each school will determine if winter teams and athletes who qualified for postseason play will participate, the council said.

The league also announced it was canceling its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and that the regular season champions will advance to the NCAA tournament.

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Golden State Warriors to play without fans

In San Francisco, the mayor on Wednesday banned all group events over 1,000 people to slow the spread of the virus.

The Golden State Warriors then announced that its Thursday night game in San Francisco against the Brooklyn Nets will be played without fans.

“It’s a shock for sure,” Warriors star Steph Curry said Wednesday.

“Everything about our routines is reliant upon that kind of game day energy. Pulling up to the arena, seeing fans outside of Chase [Center] walking around in all the Warrior jerseys, even energy in the building, you can feel it all the way through the locker room, through the tunnel,” Curry said. “The only thing is try to have a conversation about how you raise your level of intensity from the jump because you don’t have that actual adrenaline rush of playing in front of 18,000 people like that.”

“I know once the game starts it will be fairly easy to get into that type of flow,” he added.

All other games and events at San Francisco’s Chase Center (home to the Warriors) through March 21 were canceled or postponed, officials added.
 

Changes for the MLB

In Washington state, hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the governor on Wednesday banned events of more than 250 people in several counties.

That prompted the Seattle Mariners to say the team is working with MLB “on alternative plans” for games scheduled in Seattle at the end of March.

The San Francisco Giants also made adjustments.

The Giants said they won’t play the March 24 exhibition game set to take place in the city and that the team said it is working on “alternative arrangements.” 

ABC News’ Kamari Esquerra contributed to this report.

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