Large gatherings at sports and other events in Oregon should either be canceled or significantly modified through September because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday.
The announcement will have a direct impact on the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, MLS' Portland Timbers and collegiate programs at Oregon and Oregon State, among others. The NBA and MLS seasons remain on hold, while the upcoming fall college sports season is the subject of intense debate.
Oregon is scheduled to host three home football games in September, including Week 2 against Ohio State, a huge nonconference matchup that should have College Football Playoff ramifications. Oregon State also has three home games in September, including its Pac-12 opener against Washington State.
During a news conference outlining steps the state should take to reopen, Brown said, "There is some difficult news to share. Large gatherings, including live sporting events with audiences, concerts, festivals and conventions, will not be able to return until we have a reliable treatment or prevention like a vaccine. The Oregon Health Authority is advising that any large gatherings at least through September should either be canceled or significantly modified. I know this is really, really hard."
In a statement, the Oregon athletic department said, "We will continue to work with state and local officials, public health experts, and campus leadership in navigating all of the unprecedented issues surrounding COVID-19 and when our student-athletes will be able to return to competition. The health and safety of our student-athletes and community will continue to be our top priority."
Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said in a videoconference with the media later Thursday that the school is "modeling various scenarios because the times are so uncertain."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he was "not necessarily surprised" by the Oregon governor's announcement.
"A statement someone makes in May about what's going to happen in September, it seems to me, is a very long ways away and there is a lot more for everyone to learn between now and then," Scott said.
As the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the entire sports calendar remains uncertain. The NBA and MLS are allowing players to return to limited practice slowly, though no official restart date has been announced for either league.
Leaders throughout collegiate athletics have made no definitive announcements about the start of the fall seasons, though commissioners meet daily to discuss the scenarios.
One of those scenarios is to try to start the season on time without fans, a step that would represent a significant modification to the scheduled event. But even if the decision is made to play without fans, there are myriad other questions that need to be answered, including testing and safety measures for not only student-athletes but all those required to put on a game.
The ownership of the Timbers and the National Women's Soccer League's Portland Thorns said they "remain hopeful there is a path forward to play in front of our supporters in 2020" but have already developed plans for refunds for any missed games that might not be made up.
"The Timbers and Thorns have been diligent in our adherence to the advice of local public health authorities and government agencies throughout the crisis and will continue to do so with the safety and well-being of our fans, staff and players as the clubs' highest priority," the teams said.