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WNBA postpones training camp, start of season because of coronavirus concerns

The WNBA is the latest sports league to postpone its season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday that the league has postponed the start of training camp and the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday that the league has postponed the start of training camp and the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The WNBA announced Friday that it is postponing training camp and the start of its season indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The writing has been on the wall for weeks now, with other leagues and sporting events having been postponed or canceled because of the pandemic. It became even more inevitable when President Donald Trump extended federal guidelines for social distancing through April 30.

WNBA training camps were scheduled to open April 26, and the season was supposed to start May 15.

The league still will host its draft April 17, as planned, but it will take place virtually. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the picks on ESPN, and the top selections will do interviews remotely.

The WNBA has some wiggle room when it comes to rescheduling games, making it possible for teams to play a full 34-game slate. The league carved out a monthlong break from July 11 to Aug. 13 for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed until 2021.

The delay of the WNBA’s 24th season comes at a critical time for the league. After last season saw an increase in viewership across all platforms from 2018, the WNBA and the players’ union reached a groundbreaking eight-year labor deal that increased players’ salaries and improved their benefits.

The new collective-bargaining agreement also allowed for unprecedented movement of high-profile players. It was Engelbert’s hope that the CBA and free agency would propel the league in a new direction.

Now when the delayed season begins, the WNBA likely will be competing against more established leagues, such as the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL, for fan attention.

Some Sky players don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, however.

‘‘It’s going to be more exposure, and anytime you have more exposure, it can’t hurt,’’ Gabby Williams said. ‘‘If it overlaps with the NBA, that would be awesome to do [WNBA/NBA] doubleheaders. And I think if the NBA was more open to embracing us than they have in the past, it could help a lot.’’