2020 @BNPParibasOpen Canceled Because of Global Nature of the Sport
The hard edge of the Coronavirus finally collided with the tennis world last night as the 2020 BNP Paribas Open was canceled by tournament organizers, citing the health of players, fans and volunteers. But let’s face it: this happened because of the international nature of our sport.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, as quoted in the 2020 BNP Paribas Open obituary released by the tournament. He may be right.
Over the weekend, hundreds of college and professional sporting events went on as planned in the United States. Also over the weekend, a university in Baltimore closed its doors to fans for four Division III college basketball games that were only expected to draw a few hundred spectators.
Overseas, a handful of professional soccer matches were canceled in Italy. They were the outliers, and given that Division III basketball tournament host Johns Hopkins University is known as an international vanguard on public health, there may have been some brand considerations to go along with that decision.
But to cancel the fifth most important tournament in professional tennis is a quantum leap. It is either the decision of a hyper-vigilant public health officer or a sign of much worse to come.
The Indiana Pacers boarded a plane to fly to Texas to play the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Like all other teams in US domestic leagues, the fans travel relatively short distances and the players do too. The only international flight for an NBA team over the weekend was the Toronto Raptors flying to Sacramento.
Compare this to the players preparing to travel to Indian Wells. They were planning to come from Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and many other countries. Think about those players and their teams with connecting flights at airports all over the world and you’ll quickly realize that the decision to cancel Indian Wells was about protecting Riverside County, California from so many possibly infected players and coaches.Embed from Getty Images
We love tennis because of its international nature, and that is why it is being treated differently. As tennis can’t change its international composition, this bodes horribly for the rest of the tour leading up to Wimbledon. It’s ironic that as the US has been isolating itself from the rest of the world at the highest diplomatic levels over the last four years, tennis has been filling that void of international camaraderie for its fans, and this sport has just become the first major casualty precisely because of its global flavor.