The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the global sports community. Non-essential sectors of society and their businesses shutting down to prevent the spread of the virus. For the protection of players, fans, and supporting staff, live sports are suspended and the venues that host these events have been indefinitely closed.
Emotional and Economic Ramifications, and a Rallying Cry
For many of us, live sports acts as a source of entertainment, excitement, and distraction. They bring our communities closer together, and give us something to cheer for, whatever else may be happening in our lives. Without sports there’s an unmistakable void, which is especially pronounced during a time when we all feel a heightened sense of uncertainty and anxiety.
While the emotional toll of missing live sports is palpable, the economic ramifications are arguably far worse. Unfortunately, the loss of live sports equals the loss of employment for the extensive workforce of hourly employees who are largely responsible for supporting these events and venues. For a significant portion of venue employees these jobs are their primary or only source of income, so an indefinite closure puts them in a very compromising position.
In response, an enormous rallying cry has emanated from team owners and athletes. When leagues first announced indefinite closures, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban almost immediately shared a plan to pay all his full time and part-time venue employees while out of work. Cuban is credited for pioneering this response in the US, and a number of team owners and star athletes have followed suit. In addition to supporting furloughed venue employees, the sports community is finding creative ways to help those heavily impacted by the pandemic, like buying meals for in-need students who aren’t in school and sending donations to support viral testing and the purchase of protective equipment. New England Patriots’ Owner Robert Kraft purchased 1.7 million N95 masks from China, and flew the team plan to China and back to Boston to deliver them. A handful of recovered NBA players who tested positive for COVID-19 are now donating their blood plasma for experimental treatment that could help high-risk patients overcome the virus.
Venues Open their Doors (but not for Sports)
The continuously evolving circumstances of the pandemic have driven some US-based venues to reopen their doors, but not to host live sports and entertainment events. As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increases across the country, and the availability of hospital beds in highly-populated cities dwindles, sports venues are working with government authorities and healthcare organizations to provide space for viral testing, quarantine, and other related initiatives.
Extreme is incredibly proud to say that several of our sports partners and their venues are supporting these efforts.
While it feels like a lifetime away now, it was only two months ago that Super Bowl LIV was played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL – where tens of thousands of fans attended the event and shared their experiences as the excitement unfolded. Now the venue has been re-purposed to serve as a COVID-19 testing center for elderly citizens, healthcare staff, and first responders. The massive parking lot surrounding the venue is supporting drive-up testing for the immediate future. Two other NFL venues in Florida are offering drive-up testing as well – Raymond James Stadium – home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars plans to expand testing (from just medical staff and first responders) for anyone who has come into close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive.
In Seattle, another area of the country severely impacted by COVID-19, CenturyLink Field worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA to create an in-stadium field hospital. CenturyLink Field is home to NFL team Seattle Seahawks and MLS team Seattle Sounders. The initiative was designed to reduce the burden of local hospitals by bringing 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Corson, Colorado to create at least 150 beds for non-COVID patients. With the severity of the COVID-19 situation finally beginning to lessen in the Pacific Northwest, the Governor has decided to return the temporary force to states in greater need.
While it remains anyone’s best guess when sports stadiums and arenas will resume normal operations, delivering live sports and entertainment events in front of a packed audience, what remains evident is the important role sports organizations and their venues have on our society and our local communities.
To learn more how Extreme Networks is helping businesses during these challenging times, visit our COVID-19 response and business continuity landing page.