Dec 17, 2021 - Sports

COVID's grip tightens on sports world

Picture of a basketball court and the lights are red
The Canadiens played without fans last night. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

COVID continues to rip through professional sports at an alarming rate, prompting leagues around the world to update protocols, limit fan capacity, postpone games and consider temporary shutdowns.

State of play: As of Thursday evening, 60 NHL players had entered protocols in a four-day span and 52 NBA players had entered protocols in December.

  • In the NFL, the Rams, Browns and Washington alone combined for 67 players in protocols.
  • The Canadiens-Flyers game had no fans at the request of Quebec public health officials a day after Ontario limited capacity at all large venues to 50%.
  • 13 men's and women's college hoops games and six Premier League matches have been canceled or postponed between Thursday and Sunday.

The big picture: Leagues are implementing enhanced protocols aiming both to stop the spread (masking, distancing) and get asymptomatic, vaccinated players back sooner, but it's beginning to feel like a leaky bucket.

  • The good news is that a majority of these players aren't getting terribly sick.
  • The bad news is that, similar to March 2020, leagues may soon err on the side of caution and temporarily shut down so they can come up with a new plan that makes sense for this stage of the pandemic. Some Premier League clubs are already pushing for that option.

The bottom line: On Tuesday, I wrote that "COVID is affecting the sports world in ways not seen since before the vaccine became widely available." I wish I hadn't been this right.

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