The 2019 WNBA champion Washington Mystics will have to wait to defend their title. | Photo by Rich Kessler/NBAE via Getty Images
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday that the league is “[using] this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday in a press release that the dates for training camps and tipoff to the season have been postponed amid increased social distancing guidelines to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15,” Englebert said.
She said the league will use this time to “conduct scenario-planning” regarding when a season might start, and how. Noting the “guiding principle” of putting the “health and safety of the players, fans and employees” first, Engelbert suggests she and the league will continue to implement “innovative formats” to power a season forward if at all possible.
One such example of Engelbert’s creative, outside-the-box thinking during the pandemic is the move to proceed with the 2020 WNBA Draft on April 17 as scheduled (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET), but in a virtual format.
“We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our players, fans, and all of those in the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Engelbert stated, also expressing gratitude for “those selfless health care workers and first responders who work tirelessly on the front lines.”
“We will get through this difficult time together and look forward to seeing our fans and defending our championship as soon as safely possible,” Mystics general manager and head coach Mike Thibault said in a statement. “In the meantime, we will continue to find other ways to stay connected as we encourage everyone to stay home and be safe.”
“The Lynx fully support the WNBA’s decision today to postpone the start of the upcoming WNBA season,” the organization said in a statement Friday. “The safety of our fans, players and staff is of the utmost importance. Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by the pandemic and we thank those who are working tirelessly to fight the coronavirus.”