In what felt like a formality, the WNBA on Friday announced its season will be postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert made the announcement Friday, just three weeks before the league was slated to open training camp April 26. The Storm’s home opener had been scheduled for May 15 against the Dallas Wings at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We at the Storm fully support (the decision),” said Alisha Valavanis, the Storm’s CEO and general manager, in a statement. “We are grateful for the frontline workers, who are courageously combating COVID-19. Our league must do its part to keep our communities safe. These decisions are a part of something much more consequential than sports. We look forward to coming together to enjoy Storm basketball games when it is safe for us to gather.”
The Storm are slated to play eight games at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, all originally scheduled to come after midseason. Seattle’s first game in Everett was set to take place Aug. 16 against Las Vegas. It’s unclear how these games will be affected if the WNBA is able to begin its season with an altered schedule.
American professional leagues began suspending or postponing their seasons on March 11 when the NBA became the first to have a player test positive for the virus. The WNBA and National Women’s Soccer League, which was in the midst of training camp, were keeping an eye on the pandemic’s developments in hopes of the rise of cases flattening before its seasons were set to open.
“The league will put us in the best position to be safe and healthy,” Los Angeles Sparks assistant coach Fred Williams said via text message. “I’m confident they will make the right decision for us. As for now, we all must obey the national rules.”
The WNBA draft won’t be affected by the delay, but it will be altered to be held virtually on April 17 and aired live on ESPN at 4 p.m. PT. The Storm, which finished 18-16 last season, have the 11th, 19th and 31st overall picks.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases has grown to more than 240,000 in the U.S. with more than 6,000 deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. New York City, where the WNBA league offices are located, is the epicenter with more than 2,900 deaths.
The U.S. currently has 38 states under some form of a stay-at-home order. Those and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend social distancing through April 30 prompted the WNBA’s decision.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order is in effect through May 4.