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The Mercury News (San Jose)

The coronavirus pandemic is exposing the lie that professional sports leagues put the health and safety of their players before the teams' bottom line.

It's the height of irresponsibility for MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, NFL, MLS and NWSL teams to resume play while covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. And that goes double for California colleges and high school programs that are moving forward with plans to play games this fall.

The competition endangers the players; accelerates the general spread of the virus; risks the players' exposing their parents, grandparents and other highly vulnerable friends and family members to the deadly virus; and sends the entirely wrong message to fans around the world that sports competition can be safely resumed. It can't. Not yet.

Yet Major League Baseball officials announced Tuesday that teams will start play July 23 or 24. National Basketball Association teams have approved a plan to restart the season at Disney World with 22 teams on July 31. The National Hockey League will begin the Stanley Cup playoffs on July 30 in two hub cities, one of which will be Las Vegas.

The highest risk of being infected is by close contact. Officials of those leagues are kidding themselves if they believe they can create a safe environment for players, coaches, referees, umpires and their families.

Even tennis players are vulnerable to infection during matches. The world's No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, who flouted the pandemic by organizing a series of exhibition matches in Croatia, announced last week that he, his wife and four players had tested positive.

League officials shouldn't put the players in a position where they must choose between their health and their financial interests. The responsible course of action is to shut down all games until scientists have developed a vaccine or the threat of infection is greatly reduced. We're not there yet in the United States. We're not even close.

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