In a statement, the organization said it was following the direction set by the NHL and NBA for the games to go on as scheduled. The NBA announced Wednesday night that its season would be suspended indefinitely after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. The NHL said in a statement that it was aware of the NBA’s decision but that it was “continuing to consult with medical experts” and “evaluating the options.” It said it expected to have a further update Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the D.C. Health Department recommended that “nonessential mass gatherings” be postponed or canceled.
Though Monumental Sports called the health of employees, players and guests “paramount” during this rapidly moving situation in which cities, amateur organizations and professional teams announced plans to host events without fans, it initially said that Washington games will go on without restrictions. Monumental said its teams were prepared to follow directives from either their leagues or District officials to play games without spectators, if necessary.
Late Wednesday night, Monumental issued a second statement, saying the Wizards would soon send further information about the suspension to season ticket holders and sponsors, and that the NHL would have a further update before Thursday’s scheduled Capitals home game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Hours after the health department made the recommendation to cancel or postpone mass gatherings, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced six new cases of the novel coronavirus and declared a state of emergency in the city.
Following the Capitals’ practice Wednesday, center Nicklas Backstrom said he recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, but also advocated for games going on with fans inside arenas.
“Hopefully we don’t have to go down that road, but I think everyone makes their own decisions, but for us as hockey players, that would be a really bad idea, and I wouldn’t like it personally,” Backstrom said. “I honestly don’t feel like fans should suffer from this. I don’t know where all the fans were from here. Maybe they were driving a long way. We are trying to act as normal as possible.”
Center Lars Eller said he accepted that playing inside an empty arena might be inevitable.
“I think it’s an actual real possibility,” Eller said. “We’re not there yet, but you look at the rest of the world, what’s happening in Europe, and those things are already happening. So I don’t think you can neglect it and say, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ It’s a very real possibility.”
In Seattle and San Francisco, professional sporting events were moved to different locations or were temporarily scheduled to continue without fans. The Seattle Mariners announced all home games this month would be played outside the city, which has been one of the hardest hit by the outbreak. The XFL’s Seattle Dragons said they would play in an empty stadium, while the Sounders of MLS postponed an upcoming game.
Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors, canceled or postponed all events through March 21. The Warriors’ Thursday night matchup against the Brooklyn Nets was to have been played without fans before the season was suspended.
Also, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would go on with only “essential” personnel inside arenas.
D.C. United, following an MLS-wide mandate, announced it would charter travel rather than fly commercial to all road matches for the foreseeable future. The University of Maryland said it would essentially close public attendance for all home sporting events until at least April 10.
Maryland’s governing high school association, the MPSSAA, announced Wednesday night that its boys’ and girls’ basketball championships will be held in a “closed gym” setting with only essential personnel and parents of players and family in attendance. The boys’ tournament is set for Xfinity Center, the girls’ at Towson University.
Samantha Pell contributed to this report.