Tom Goldman

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America's most popular spectator sport is back. Albeit with fewer spectators because of the pandemic.

A new NFL season, the league's 101st, begins Thursday night in Kansas City with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

And here's a surprise. Fans at sporting events are a rarity these days, but in fact, there'll be a far-from-capacity crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, with a slew of COVID-19 precautions waiting for them.

A semi-full slate of college football games is scheduled for this weekend as a season unfolds....anxiously.

Already, two of the five major Division 1 conference have decided not to play this fall because of the coronavirus.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The pandemic had already shortened the baseball season. And now less than a week into it, there are big problems with the coronavirus.

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The Summer Olympics in Tokyo were supposed to start Friday.

The Games were, of course, postponed until next July because of the coronavirus outbreak. It forced thousands of athletes to pause and re-order their training schedules.

But some decided a year was too long to wait.

The run-don't-walk Major League Baseball season begins Thursday night.

Normally it's a 162-game stroll. But the Washington Nationals vs New York Yankees opener, in D.C., represents the beginning of a 60-game sprint through a pandemic shortened schedule.

Florida continues to see record coronavirus cases and, at the same time, delays in getting test results.

But that's not the case for NBA and Major League Soccer athletes playing in the Orlando area. Their season restarts have included frequent and quick COVID-19 testing.

The discrepancy is raising ethical questions about the process.

Not helpful, and potentially dangerous

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been criticized for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, including opening the state early, in the beginning of May.

Not long ago, a Major League Baseball season seemed improbable, with owners and players fighting about how to restart in the middle of a pandemic.

Now, the fighting is over, at least publicly.

And the Majors are a little more than two weeks away from playing ball. If all goes well.

Updated at 7:54 p.m. ET

Ready or not, the NBA restart is a go.

It appears the league is as ready as it can be to play three months of basketball inside a protective bubble near Orlando, Fla., while on the outside coronavirus cases currently soar.

Whether it's a success – at this point all one can do is dust off the oldest of clichés.

Time will tell.

NASCAR has finished its investigation and says it still doesn't know who tied a noose that was discovered this past weekend in the garage stall used by African American stock car driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

What's in a name?

In the current climate, a lot. And enough to force change when that name offends.

On Tuesday, the University of Cincinnati board of trustees voted unanimously to take down the name of Marge Schott from the school's baseball stadium, effective immediately.

The board cited Schott's "record of racism and bigotry" in making its decision.

Updated at 2:16 p.m. ET Saturday

Major League Baseball will shut down and disinfect all 30 teams' Spring Training facilities in Florida and Arizona, as the coronavirus continues to make its presence felt.

The league says players and other personnel will need a negative test for the virus before they can get back into the facilities after the deep cleaning.

Before the announcement late Friday night, several teams made the decision on their own to shut down.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Great Sports Freeze of 2020, due to the coronavirus outbreak, appears to be thawing. Despite increases of COVID-19 cases in nearly half of the country, sports and leagues are marching ahead with plans to reopen.

As nationwide protests against police brutality and racism demand change to current laws and institutions, the ripple effects are reaching historic symbols of white supremacy.

The effort to dismantle, relocate or rename symbols is happening in the sports world as well.

Athletes have gotten involved in a potential name change at the University of Cincinnati.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sports are part of the fabric of American society, and often they've provided a medium for athlete protest. In recent years, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the face of the movement. In 2016, he began kneeling before games, during the playing of the national anthem, to protest police treatment of minorities and social inequality.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

NASCAR returned to action yesterday, but, sports fans, this country's other major pro sports remain shut down because of the coronavirus. Momentum has been building for them to restart. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman on whether it's too soon for a comeback.

As communities start to emerge from COVID-19 shutdowns, so do recreational opportunities.

Carefully.

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South Korea has been out in front of the coronavirus, limiting it with early, widespread testing and quarantining.

It follows that the country would be among the first to play ball again.

We've been hearing about possible plans for restarting Major League Baseball after its coronavirus shutdown.

Now the league is joining the fight against the virus in a way that could help society get going again.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit sports worldwide causing event postponements and cancellations.

Now it appears the pandemic has led to the total shutdown of a league.

Monday, the parent company of the rebooted XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This followed last Friday's decision by the pro football league to suspend operations and lay off nearly all of those who worked for the XFL.

The shock of the NCAA canceling college sports largely is gone.

The cost, is not.

You won't hear a lot of sympathy these days for professional athletes who can't play their games because of the coronavirus outbreak. Technically, they're out of work. But most are also getting paid handsomely, although not as handsomely as they usually are.

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Amid all the rules to stay put during the coronavirus outbreak, there's a consistent companion message: it's important to keep moving. Exercise, outdoors and indoors, helps maintain good physical and mental health during this stressful time.

But for those movers, there are rules too.

Let's start outside, where health experts say the risk of infection is lower than inside.

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