For months now, one name after another has scrolled across the sports ticker announcing an athlete or coach has tested positive for COVID-19. In some cases, it’s a large contingent of a team. In all cases, they are sidelined for days, if not weeks. The virus, as far as we know, has sparingly affected the sports broadcasting world. Until now. And the latest news has delivered a devastating blow to an entire crew at Fox Sports who will be calling in backups for this weekend’s games.
COVID-19 shut down sports world
COVID-19 made it to the United States in late January, according to the CDC. While news reports indicated the virus was spreading, it wasn’t making major headlines at the time. That all changed on March 11, when the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert was the first known athlete to test positive for the virus.
Gobert’s diagnosis set off a chain of events that dramatically changed the sports landscape. The NBA indefinitely suspended the season the next day. Other leagues in the U.S. and around the world soon followed.
The sports shutdown was unprecedented. For months, sports fans were relegated to watching re-runs of previous sporting events or, on occasion, fortunate enough to watch some original programming like “The Last Dance” documentary featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Many big names have tested positive
Following Gobert’s diagnosis, sports fans soon discovered how contagious the virus was when his Utah teammate Donovan Mitchell announced he was also infected. It was a scenario that played out in locker rooms across the nation.
Less than a week later, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant tested positive. A week later, the NFL had its first confirmed case when New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced he had been battling the disease.
All of these cases were happening as states around the nation were enforcing measures to limit activities of large gatherings of people in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. In July, as sports began to resume and teams began to assemble for a return, it became quite obvious early on that a lackluster enforcement of protocols could potentially result in disastrous circumstances.
That’s precisely what happened in baseball with the Miami Marlins organization, which had an outbreak and sent MLB officials scrambling to rearrange schedules in an attempt to salvage an already-abbreviated season.
Entire Fox Sports broadcast crew decimated by COVID-19
While COVID-19 has infected athletes and coaches, those covering sports have largely been unaffected, or at least that’s the public perception. That changed this week when Fox Sports announced the entire crew of the college football pregame show “Big Noon Kickoff” will not be working this weekend’s games.
The network announced that host Rob Stone, along with former USC players Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, and former college football coach Urban Meyer, will not appear in this week’s show before the USC-Arizona State game.
In their place, the network will bring in multiple members of Fox’s NFL Sunday crew, including Charissa Thompson, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long. They will be joined by Emmanuel Acho, who is a co-host on FS1’s “Speak for Yourself.” The college football show will be reduced from its standard two hours to one.
The statement said the decision to sideline the crew is “out of an abundance of caution” and in accordance with CDC guidance and L.A. County Department of Public Health safety guidelines. The network did not indicate if any members of the broadcast team had tested positive for COVID-19.