Some D.C.-Area Sports Are Hitting Pause As COVID-19 Continues To Complicate Play It's been more than 120 days since coronavirus tightened its grip on American society and every professional and collegiate sport stopped playing games.
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NPR logo Some D.C.-Area Sports Are Hitting Pause As COVID-19 Continues To Complicate Play

Some D.C.-Area Sports Are Hitting Pause As COVID-19 Continues To Complicate Play

The University of Maryland has halted athletic activities due positive coronavirus tests. Maryland GovPics/Flickr hide caption

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Maryland GovPics/Flickr

More D.C.-area sports teams are hitting speed bumps on the road to returning to play.

Sunday morning, a tournament game between D.C. United and Toronto FC was postponed by Major League Soccer after a player had an "initial unconfirmed positive COVID-19 case" and another player had an "inconclusive test," according to a league statement. ESPN is reporting that it was a D.C. United player who tested positive.

The "MLS is Back" tournament is taking place at the Walt Disney World Resort (as is the NBA season) near Orlando, Florida. Two teams have already dropped out due to a number of players and staff testing positive for coronavirus. Florida broke a single-day record for new positive cases when it announced more than 15,000 cases on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon, the University of Maryland said it's halting athletic activities due to positive coronavirus tests.

"Under guidance from the Prince George's County Health Department, we have temporarily suspended voluntary, individual training for the football program," UMD's statement says.

According to the release, 9 of 185 student-athletes and staff tested positive for COVID-19 and are in self-isolation. UMD's athletics' 5% positivity rate is on par with the state's cumulative current positivity rate of about 4.5%.

Late last week, the Big Ten Conference, which Maryland is a member, announced it would be moving to a "conference-only schedule" for its fall sports in 2020 to ease travel and make scheduling easier.

This means that the university's football, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's soccer and women's volleyball teams will only compete against the likes of Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State this fall. Though, it's unclear how many games will be as coronavirus cases increase in many states.

It's been more than 120 days since coronavirus tightened its grip on American society and every professional and collegiate sport stopped playing games.

Over the ensuing months, many of these leagues and teams have looked to plan their comeback. Most, like the NBA, MLB, WNBA and NHL, aimed for a July or August return in the hopes that cases would be dropping, testing would be more prevalent, and society would be crawling its way back to some version of normal.

But now it's mid-July and everything isn't as hoped. Cases are spiking in parts of the country and, in the D.C.-area, a number of recent peaks have made some worry that it's just a matter of time before a coronavirus surge will happen here.

While local teams like the Wizards, Mystics, Nationals and Capitals are still attempting to play, all is not going as planned.

Players are fearing for their safety, stars are sitting out and workouts are being canceled. So far, the only local professional team that has had success coming back is the Washington Spirit of the National Soccer Women's League who have already played several games.

And coronavirus concerns aren't the only thing that has the sports world talking. Since the end of May when protests sprung up across the country due to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, many athletes have spoken up and taken a stand.

For example, Mystics' guard Natasha Cloud is sitting out the 2020 WNBA season to continue her "fight on the front lines for social reform." During the Spirits game in June, all players wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts and most kneeled during the national anthem.

The NBA and WNBA are allowing pre-approved social justice messages to be on warm-up shirts and the back of jerseys.

A number of Washington Wizard players have chosen messages like "vote," "Black Lives Matter," and "equality" to appear on their jerseys. Mystic players will be wearing warm-up shirts that say "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" in homage to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in her Louisville home in March by three police officers.

Not everyone is on board with this organizational messaging from teams and athletes. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley criticized the NBA and its players for not having supportive military and police messages like "Support our Troops" or "Back the Blue." Georgia Senator and co-owner of WNBA's Atlanta Dream Kelly Loeffler is opposing social justice messages on the back of jerseys while also outwardly criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some have called for Loeffler to sell her stake of the team. On Friday night, the Atlanta Dream tweeted a letter signed by every player that stated "Our team is united in the Movement for Black Lives. It is not extreme to demand change after centuries of inequality. This is not a political statement. This is a statement of humanity."

This story originally appeared on DCist.

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