D.C. professional sports respond to COVID-19 pandemic

Media Credit: File Photo by Lillian Bautista | Assistant Photo Editor

Five D.C.-area professional sports teams are supporting workers during the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the District, some residents have been left without jobs – including staff for D.C.’s professional sports teams.

Sports officials have postponed the start to all spring slates, but they have not announced when seasons will pick back up again. But despite the cutbacks for players and coaches, teams are providing some relief to game day staff and the greater D.C. community by continuing to pay employees through a certain date and donating funds to fight COVID-19.

Here’s a glimpse at how five D.C.-area teams are supporting its workers during the pandemic:

Washington Nationals

Safety concerns halted the Washington Nationals’ spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida. Thirteen players stayed in the area at nearby residences while the rest returned home, Federal Baseball reported. The squad is continuing exercises while in isolation.

The reigning World Series champion Nationals, along with every other Major League Baseball organization, created a fund of $1 million for its seasonal employees affected by the league’s shutdown.

“We know the decision to postpone the season was the correct one, but it would be wrong for that decision to disproportionately impact those individuals who rely on income from working games to help support their families,” the Nationals tweeted last month.

The Washington Nationals are also the only organization among D.C.’s major sports to have job openings listed on LinkedIn. The club is looking for an executive director of retail, a director of experience, office services and special projects manager, guest support specialist and guest experience manager. The listings range from four months to two weeks old.

Washington Wizards

Monumental Sports and Entertainment paid all part-time staff through March 31 for all 16 remaining events at Capital One Arena – including five Wizards’ games – that were postponed because of COVID-19, according to a tweet from Washington Post reporter Candace Buckner.

“Over the years, obviously, [part-time arena workers] have grown to count on those dollars and when we made the announcement to stop NHL games, NBA games, all concerts we had to have great levels of empathy for those people,” Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis said.

The Wizards are owned by Monumental Sports and Entertainment and call Capital One Arena home. Wizards’ players have kept active at home to stay in shape for the season.

Washington Capitals

The National Hockey League postponed its season March 12 and has not announced when the season will pick back up again.

The Capitals also play in Capital One Arena and are owned by Monumental Sports and Entertainment, meaning workers scheduled for their seven home games through March 31 will be paid.

But not all employees who were contracted by the organization will receive the same benefits, according to WUSA. Workers hired by Contemporary Services Corporation, which provides security and crowd management at events, will not be compensated for lost hours during the coronavirus pandemic, WUSA reported March 19.

Players have been working out at home to stay in shape for the return of the season. The NHL is also considering a training camp period before resuming the 2019-20 season to get players physically reacclimated to the pace of the game after the long layoff.

Washington Mystics

The Women’s National Basketball Association’s 2020 season was set to start on May 15, but the league announced Friday that the beginning of the campaign will be postponed.

“We will get through this difficult time together and look forward to seeing our fans and defending our championship as soon as safely possible,” Mike Thibault, the general manager and head coach, said in a release. “In the meantime, we will continue to find other ways to stay connected as we encourage everyone to stay home and be safe.”

The Washington Mystics, D.C.’s WNBA team that captured the WNBA crown last season, plays its home games at the Entertainment and Sports Arena located in Congress Heights.

The Mystics are also owned by Monument Sports and Entertainment, but the organization has yet to release a statement on funding arena workers’ pay past March 31.

Forward and guard Elena Delle Donne has participated in the WNBA’s push to spread information and resources about COVID-19, according to a Swish Appeal article. She also donated a signed jersey in an effort to raise money for communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins are the only team based in the District to not have had games postponed because of the pandemic, as the National Football League’s regular season does not begin until Sept. 10.

The NFL has not released the schedule for its 2020 games yet, including preseason matchups, but league executive Jeff Pash said the full 16-game season will go ahead as planned, according to CBS Sports.

In the meantime, Redskins’ players have been working out at home, only coming into the team’s facilities if they are in need of injury rehabilitation. As of March 19, a limited number of staff members were still reporting to the team’s offices in Ashburn, Virginia and sequestering themselves from other employees, according to NBC Sports Washington.

The home of the Redskins, FedEx Field, opened as a COVID-19 testing site on March 29, NBC Sports Washington reported. The Maryland National Guard and the Prince George’s County Health Department converted the area to alleviate pressure on health care facilities during the outbreak.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.