What Happens If an NBA, NHL or MLB Player Tests Positive for COVID-19?

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As of midday Wednesday, all of the major U.S. pro sports leagues are planning to play games as scheduled. While holding some of those contests in empty buildings is seemingly becoming increasingly more likely, the show is expected to go on. But there is one scenario that would all but certainly result in the NBA, NHL or MLB season coming to a sudden halt; a player testing positive for the Coronavirus.

Should an active athlete fall ill to COVID-19, the infected individual - along with anyone else he’s come into contact (including all teammates and opponents) - would be facing mandatory two-week quarantines. Long-time front-office executive Andy Dolich says the prospect of several teams having to take an unplanned hiatus “would bring about competitive balance issues and ultimately force the league to shut down for some time.”

An extended work stoppage would more than likely force the impacted league to shorten their regular season. One must look no further than the ’98-’99 NBA season or ’12-’13 NHL season to see that playing an abbreviated slate and then moving on to the following year on schedule is preferred to pushing back the start of the playoffs.

Should one of the big four sports leagues decide to play an abbreviated season it will cost owners and players alike. A loss of games would almost certainly mean clubs having to refund a portion of ticket and sponsorship sales revenues and a ‘force majeure’ clause in the NBA CBA could cost players 1% of their annual salary for each game missed. The NHL has similar off-set language in their player contracts that calls for “a prorated reduction in pay” should games be cancelled for reasons beyond the league’s control.

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