The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July, the clearest sign yet that the league believes the season can continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney, the league said Saturday. Games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on the Disney property near Orlando.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the conversations were still “exploratory,” and that the Disney site would be used for practices and housing as well.
“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Bass said.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners, is primarily owned by Disney.
Space won’t be an issue, even if Major League Soccer — which is also in talks to resume its season at Disney — is there at the same time as the NBA. The entire Disney complex is roughly 40 square miles, with nearly 24,000 hotel rooms owned or operated by Disney within the campus.
The NBA suspended its season March 11, becoming the first of the U.S. major pro leagues to do so after it was revealed that All-Star center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players who were known to test positive eventually grew to 10 — not all were identified — and NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the actual total was higher.
But the league has been working on countless return-to-play scenarios for several weeks, all with the caveat that testing would be an integral part of any resumption of the season.
NHLPA panel backs 24-team playoff plan
The NHL Players’ Association’s executive committee authorized moving forward in talks with the league on returning to play from the coronavirus suspension, approving 24 teams making the playoffs with other aspects still to be negotiated
The NHLPA did not provide a breakdown of the vote of its 31 player representatives in making the announcement late Friday night, a day after the proposal was presented to the union’s executive board. In giving the format the green light, the NHLPA stressed several details still need to be negotiated before games can begin.
The proposal will now go to the NHL Board of Governors, which is expected to approve the plan in the next few days. Once approved, the proposal effectively ends the season of the league’s bottom seven teams.
Under the plan proposed by the NHL/NHLPA Return To Play committee, the top four teams in each conference would play each other in a tournament for seeding while the remaining 16 teams face off in a best-of-five series play-in round to set the final 16 to compete for the Stanley Cup.
High schools: The coach of one of Florida’s top high school football programs has been suspended, and an investigation has been launched into whether the team that has won state championships in each of the past three seasons broke policies by practicing during the pandemic.
Miami Northwestern High coach Max Edwards has been suspended, pending the result of the investigation, school district chief communications officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego told The Miami Herald.
The district said football practice at this time would be an “unauthorized athletic activity” and parents of players who may have taken part were being interviewed by school officials as part of the investigation.
Northwestern won the Class 6A state title in 2017 and 2018 before winning the Class 5A championship last season. The Bulls are a seven-time state champion overall.
Cycling: The Tour of Denmark in September has been canceled because organizers feared the best Danish cyclists, at least, would be committed to the Tour de France at the same time.
The Tour of Denmark was originally in mid-August, and requested new dates from the International Cycling Union. The governing body moved the tour to Sept. 1-5.
But the UCI also agreed to move the Tour de France to Aug. 29-Sept. 20.
Horse racing: Jockeys and stalls handlers in Britain will be required to wear masks when horse racing hopes to resume next month. The British Horseracing Authority is hoping to get government approval to return on June 1 for the first time since March.
Soccer: The Czech league restarted under strict conditions on Saturday.
Teplice beat visiting Liberec 2-0 without spectators as the First League resumed after a 73-day stoppage. The teams entered the stadium separately and players were not allowed to shake hands or celebrate goals together.
The Czech Republic was not as badly hit by the pandemic as Italy, Spain, France and Britain were.
In Spain, the league will be allowed to resume from June 8, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Saturday.
While the top tier, La Liga, can play from this date, it has already said it wants to resume play on June 12. It is unclear when the first games will be held.