It’s been a treacherous week as the deadly coronavirus has forced the world of professional sports to be put on indefinite hold. Without games to watch, sporting events serve as an escape for millions of people across the globe, among their many other concerns, viewers are wondering what ESPN programming will do during this interim time period.
On Saturday, ESPN will start off the morning with Sportcenter as usual, and an encore presentation of UFC 246: McGregor Vs. Cowboy at noon. But viewers will get an all-new fight at 3 p.m. ET. ESPN is airing UFC Fight Night: Lee Vs. Oliveira live from Brazil.
In the past week, the NBA was suspended for a minimum of 30 days, MLB Opening Day was pushed back for at least two weeks, NHL initiated a full suspension of games, PGA tournaments are postponed, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments were canceled — the list goes on.
ESPN’s flagship program, Sportscenter, plays for hours a day the network’s multiple stations. Hosts like Scott Van Pelt, John Anderson, and Matt Barrie keep fans abreast of breaking news in regards to daily sporting events and scoring updates. But if no games are being played, what will viewers be watching on ESPN for the next few months?
ESPN Is ‘Working Hard To Fill In The Holes’ During Coronavirus Cancelations & Suspensions
Heavy has reached out to numerous ESPN personnel to get a more concise look at what ESPN programming will look like in the coming weeks, and it appears the world’s premier sports network is handling coronavirus like every other business in America right now, they are taking it one day at a time.
Josh Krulewitz, ESPN VP, Communications wrote in an e-mail, “We appreciate your patience as we work through modifications for the days ahead. Our programming team is hard at work to fill the holes on our networks and we will provide updates when finalized. Thanks so much for your understanding.”
On Friday, the most ESPN could share with us was their program line-up for Friday, which did not include any live sporting events. Later in the evening, ESPN’s schedule included an encore presentation of First Take and a replay of the “Celtics vs. Lakers” 30 for 30 episode.
It’s likey that viewers can expect more of the above — numerous encore presentations, as well as ESPN documentaries to fill in the airtime typically reserved for the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, the Masters, March Madness and more. While it may seem anti-climatic for ESPN to roll out throwback games and replay programming, it’s much better than more breaking news updates of players and staff testing positive for COVID-19.
As for the NFL, most teams have postponed all draft visits, however, the 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas is still a go. The three-day event is scheduled to kick off on April 23, and typically draws a crowd of hundreds of thousands.
On Thursday, Ian Rappaport announced on NFL Total Access: “Yes, the draft is slated to go on, but in what actual form is certainly a question. Will there be fans there? Will it be a big-time return to sports moment for the NFL if the nation gets over this virus in that time? Or will there be no fans, will it be in a different location, potentially will it be conducted by conference call? All of these things are options.”
Superstar Athletes Are Donating Money To Help Those Impacted By Coronavirus Suspensions
While the news is understandably grim and disheartening right now, there are some positive lights shining through during these dark times. On Friday, Milwaukee Bucks’ star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recently welcomed his first child, Liam Charles, with longtime girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger, donated $100K to help Fiserv Forum workers and staff affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Giannis shared the news via Twitter. “It’s bigger than basketball,” Antetokounmpo began. “And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier. Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together.”
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love was first to get the donations rolling in the NBA. On Thursday, Love announced on Instagram that he’d be donating $100K to arena staff through his eponymous foundation.
Love wrote, “I encourage everyone to take care of themselves and to reach out to others in need — whether that means supporting your local charities that are canceling events, or checking in on your colleagues and family.”