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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's pro sports leagues sputtered back to life in 2020 with bubbles, comprehensive testing programs and a host of other changes that still seem unimaginable after the fact.

The state of play: The leagues succeeded because they have enormous wealth and were operating mostly in "salvage the season" mode — but now comes the hard part: Figuring out how to do it again — this time from an even worse financial position and amid a third coronavirus wave.

The state of play: If 2020 had been a normal year, the NBA and NHL would already be in the midst of their 2021 campaigns. Instead, they don't even know when they'll start.

  • MLB, which nearly canceled its season in July as owners and players bickered over money, is likely headed for another brutal labor fight this winter.

And don't forget about the many other leagues in this country that are hoping to have a season next year, all while trying to recover from lost revenue and adjust to new realities.

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.