Aug 2, 2020 - Sports

More athletes opt out as U.S. struggles with coronavirus

An empty baseball park.

The Los Angeles Dodgers play against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 31 in Phoenix. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A growing number of pro athletes in the U.S. are opting out of the 2020 season, or league restarts, citing concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic continues to disrupt the world of sports, despite many fans hoping that a return for the major leagues would spell some semblance of normalcy for other aspects of life.

Driving the news:

  • In the NFL: At least three dozen players have opted out of the 2020 season, eight of them on the New England Patriots. So far, just 10 of the league's 32 teams still have a complete roster for the season. The regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.
  • In MLB: At least 15 players have opted out following Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Lorenzo Cain's announcement Saturday that he would not take part in the season. The Miami Marlins saw 18 players and two coaches test positive over an eight-day span in late July.
  • The NBA kicked off its restart this week with 22 of its 30 teams in Orlando taking part in its "bubble." Not among those participating are at least nine players, including the Brooklyn Nets' DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler, and the Portland Trail Blazers' Trevor Ariza.
  • The WNBA restarted July 25, with a similar bubble in Bradenton, Florida. They will have 22 games, down from the usual 34. At least 15 players have opted out of the season, with five of those being for non-coronavirus-related reasons.
  • The NHL will have at least six players not take part in the "Return to Play" Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which began on Aug. 1.
  • MLS had at least 10 players decline to take part in its tournament in Orlando, including the league's star player, Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela.

What's new: This has extended to college sports. A group of Pac-12 Conference football players has threatened to boycott practices and games unless the league satisfies a number of demands related to protections during the pandemic and racial injustice.

The intrigue: The National Women’s Soccer League, which finished its monthlong tournament inside a bubble in Utah, completed its season in late July without any positive cases.

The other side: Leagues in Europe, which has had a better handle of the pandemic than the U.S., are planning to welcome fans back to major sporting events in the fall, after many sports restarted on the continent without much incident, per the Wall Street Journal.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that Wilson Chandler of the Brooklyn Nets has opted out of the season (not Tyler Chandler) and that the WNBA will have 22 games (not 22 teams).

Go deeper