Rafael Nadal reacts to a Hawk-Eye challenge decision. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how teams, leagues and other sports organizations operate.

Why it matters: Some of those changes are temporary, but others will likely be permanent — and in some cases, COVID-19 merely sped up a technological evolution that was already well underway.

Two prime examples:

1. Robot refs: In an attempt to reduce the number of people on site, the U.S. Open (Aug. 31–Sept. 13) will replace line judges with an automated system called Hawk-Eye Live, NYT reports.

  • Hawk-Eye has been used in the past to challenge calls, but now it will go from serving as quality control and aiding the broadcast to being the first and final word.
  • The system uses recorded voices to shout things like "out" and "fault," and when a line call is particularly close, the voice projects more urgency. Like GPS systems, different voices — and languages — can be used.
A woman undergoes an iris scan at Clear's booth at Grand Central Station. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

2. Facial recognition: Multiple teams and leagues are testing facial-recognition technology and biometric screening to make admitting fans into stadiums as safe and touchless as possible.

  • Starting next year, LAFC fans will be able to use an app called Clear, which some airline passengers already use to speed through security. The Mets are testing the same system this season for players and coaches, and the NHL is using Clear to screen players and personnel inside its bubbles.
  • How it works, per WSJ (subscription): One camera measures the fan's temperature, while a second determines if they're wearing a mask. The fan then pulls down their mask to allow the camera see their face, which is linked to their TicketMaster account. If they have a ticket, they're allowed entry.

The big picture: The transition from physical to digital tickets has been underway for a decade. This is the next stage in that evolution, and the pandemic sped up the process. Someday soon, you'll probably be buying hot dogs with your face.

Go deeper

In photos: Winds fuel wildfires in California as blazes ravage U.S. West

Firefighters near Wrightwood, California battle the Bobcat Fire as it surpasses 100,000 acres on Sept. 20. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

78 large wildfires are burning across the U.S. Cal Fire reported Monday 19,000 firefighters were battling 27 major blazes across California.

The big picture: Cooler weather and rains provided relief to firefighters and improved air quality in parts of the northwest. But strong winds have worsened conditions in California, where the Bobcat Fire prompted fresh evacuations. The blaze, one of the largest in LA County history, has burned some 105,345 acres and was only 15% contained as of Monday afternoon. The mega-fires have killed at least 36 people and charred over 5 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California.

How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Trump signs in Olyphant, Penn. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

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