Pro Leagues Reveal Plans to Reopen Team Facilities

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Professional sports leagues are all planning the next step in what could eventually mean a return to competition.

The NBA and NFL are informing teams about how facilities can reopen, while the NHL is waiting until it can open league-wide, and the MLB is reportedly unveiling a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association within a week. All leagues have been shuddered since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ESPN, all NBA players are invited to a Friday call hosted by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts. ESPN’s sources said that the call will be an open forum for players to ask questions or raise concerns about the coronavirus and the reopening of practice facilities, which is scheduled to be allowed Friday in states where stay-at-home orders have been eased.

USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina reported that few NBA practice facilities will actually reopen Friday, writing that only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets — and maybe a couple more teams — plan to open.

The select NBA facilities won’t open in full. USA Today reported that there can be no more than four players working out at a time, while ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that teams must designate six assistant coaches or player development personnel to provide supervision.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, told the 77 Minutes in Heaven podcast that the Mavericks won’t open Friday “because we can’t test people, then we can’t assure anybody’s safety, whether they’re basketball players or anybody else. Even though we can try to take all different kinds of precautions, it’s just not worth it.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a Wednesday memo to teams that laid out protocols for reopening facilities, while also telling team officials not to speculate publicly about how the league will resume. The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted Goodell’s memo, which said teams should have certain protocols in place for a potential May 15 reopening of facilities.

The NFL, which plans to release its 2020 schedule Thursday night, informed teams that the first phase of reopening facilities would include a maximum of 50 percent of non-player employees reporting to work on any single day. The NFL will cap the number of employees at 75, unless state regulations require a lower number. Players would only be allowed in the facility to continue therapy or rehabilitation that was already underway when facilities closed.

The NHL is reportedly aiming to allow players to return to facilities in late May, but is looking to make its reopening plan fair for all teams. Therefore, TSN’s Darren Dreger said Tuesday that “Phase 2 can’t really get started until the large majority of the NHL teams are able to open up, and that means players coming back. But here’s the interesting twist to all of that. Even though the majority of clubs may be able to open up, unless they can all open up at the same time or around the same time, the NHL isn’t going to allow players to go to their club facility again until the majority are able to do that.”

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLB is developing a plan to return to competition, and will bring that plan to the MLB Players Association sometime in the next week. Passan reported that teams have told players to prepare for a second, abbreviated “spring training” that could begin in mid-June, with regular-season games starting in early July. Rather than previous plans of quarantining the entire league in one location, Passan’s sources said that momentum is building toward playing games in teams’ home stadiums.

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