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Pennsylvania governor announces return protocols for pro sports teams

The Pennsylvania governor gave Philadelphia and Pittsburgh pro sports teams the go-ahead to restart practices and seasons without fans in attendance.

Phillie Phanatic riding around on an ATV.

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf issued an order on Wednesday to elaborate on the reopening process for counties across the state. The state is using red, yellow, and green colors for the phases of reopening, and the order covered which counties can move to the green phase this Friday, and what is available to those in the yellow phase.

The green phase provides for indoor and outdoors seating in restaurants, and various regulations related to businesses re-opening in the coming days and weeks. The yellow phase allows for outdoor dining, and for our purposes, allows for practice and play of pro sports teams so long as there are no fans at the venue and Covid-19 safety plan has been provided.

Here’s what the governor said specific to pro sports:

The Wolf Administration has worked with Pennsylvania’s professional sports teams to develop guidance that allows for competition to resume.

Professional sports, defined as any sporting event at which the participants are paid by a league or team, or at which individuals or teams receive prizes or purse, are allowed to practice or play in the yellow and green phases of reopening without on-site or venue spectators if the team (or league on behalf of the team) has developed a COVID-19 safety plan.

Such a plan must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and include, among other requirements, testing or screening and monitoring of all on-venue players and personnel. Also, no fans or spectators may be permitted on interior or exterior venue property. Professional sports organizations are encouraged to contact the Wolf Administration to share their reopening plans and get them approved by the Department of Health.

Eagles beat writer Mike Kaye is reporting Philadelphia is in the red phase, but is expected to enter the yellow phase by next week. With the governor’s order, that opens the door for the Philadelphia teams to begin practice. That includes the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Flyers, and Union. Meanwhile, Allegheny County, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins, advanced to the yellow phase on the 15th.

Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Eagles and Steelers are in their offseason workout programs, but the NFL said teams could start to re-open their front offices once it was allowed in their respective locale. The Steelers re-opened on the 19th, while the Eagles have not yet reopened. Coaches and players are not yet allowed back at any NFL facilities. The players in particular require the owners reach an agreement with the union to restart in-person activities.

Philadelphia 76ers

The NBA is looking at restarting the season in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, projecting some time in late July. The league is reportedly set to call players back to local workout facilities at the start of June, so this re-opening by the governor would allow for players to come back to the Philadelphia metropolitan area for practice before potentially heading to Orlando.

Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins

The NHL announced plans for a 24-team playoff. Players will be able to return to their home facilities at some point in June, and then would go to a single site for their Eastern Conference playoff games. Pittsburgh is one of the cities in contention to be a hub city for the playoffs.

Philadelphia Phillies

MLB owners are pushing for a restart in early July, with spraining training restarting in mid-June. It seems likely that spring training would be in the local cities, rather than in Florida and Arizona, but that has not been finalized. Owners and players have been negotiating health and safety issues, and owners submitted an economics proposal on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Union

MLS is looking to run a full league, 26-team playoff in Orlando. There is no word yet if teams would start training in Orlando, or if they would start in their local city first.