The WNBA hit a bit of a snag as the 2020 semifinals began, with several members of the Seattle Storm returning inconclusive COVID-19 tests ahead of their Game 1 contest against the Minnesota Lynx.
The league postponed Friday’s contest out of caution for players and staff still in the bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces still played that night but were informed of the news shortly after their game concluded, per The Hartford Courant’s Alexa Philippou.
But it appears the WNBA has things back on track as of Monday, though the league has had to shake some things up to accommodate for the brief delay.
Game 2 of the Sun-Aces series has been moved up from 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday to 7 p.m. The Storm-Lynx series, meanwhile, will move into the 9 p.m. timeslot assuming they are cleared to play.
Both games will air on ESPN2.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Sunday reiterated the league’s commitment to health and safety with ESPN’s Holly Rowe during the Sun-Aces Game 1 broadcast.
“As you know, player health and safety and staff health and safety were No. 1 when we were planning this back in May into June and No. 1 today now that we’re in the semifinals. So, you know, we got some tests back for the Seattle team and they were inconclusive. … Especially when there’s multiple players on a team, we really can’t take a chance to expose the bubble to any kind of community spread. We need to see, get more data, get more testing, get more data to see whether we have an issue or not. And so, we decided to postpone the game.”
Engelbert approached both teams about the issue before Game 1 of the Storm-Lynx series began. She managed to catch Seattle while the team still was on the bus at the hotel and spoke to players about the issue.
“As soon as I talked to them, it was clear they were, you know, obviously concerned,” Engelbert said. “You know, we’re all concerned about health and safety while we’re here. And it wasn’t about basketball at that point. It was about doing the right thing, and we decided — after talking with the players and talking with some other league officials, talking with some of our (doctors) that this was the right thing to do, so we could just have another day or two to get testing back.
She added: “This is the hardest part of COVID-19 and putting on live sports during it, is every day you’re reset to zero. So, the fact that we might have had 70 negatives before this doesn’t actually matter. It’s about keeping the bubble safe (and) making sure there’s no community spread because the purpose of the testing program and the protocols we have is to actually be able to pull anybody out who is positive (with) COVID before they’re infectious.
“So, that is the main thing we’re trying to do here is make sure we have all the data, all the testing so that if someone is infected with COVID, we can get them into isolation, take care of them (and) their safety and then move on with play.
“… Hopefully, we’ll get good data within the next 24 to 48 hours and be back on the court with those two teams with Game 1 on Tuesday.”
Tuesday certainly will be a telling day for the WNBA.
Thumbnail photo via Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images