Earlier today, Monumental Sports and Entertainment announced they will hold Capitals and Wizards game as scheduled and available to spectators. That announcement came shortly after the DC public health department recommended that all non-essential mass gatherings be postponed. That announcement also came shortly before DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency and said she would not take her family to a public sports event.
Also on Wednesday, the esports team the Washington Justice announced they will not hold their planned homestands until May, and the concert venue entity IMP (9:30 Club, The Anthem) announced that public events have been cancelled until April. The NCAA announced that March Madness games will be played to empty arenas, as will some upcoming NHL games in San Jose and Columbus.
The intent of these changes and cancellations is to slow the coronavirus’s transmission in order to avoid a catastrophic failure of the healthcare system, as has been seen this week in Italy. MSE’s decision not to abide by the health department’s recommendation — while seemingly saying otherwise in their press release — is confusing. From that release, with emphasis added:
We have formed a cross-functional Coronavirus task force and are monitoring updates and following guidance from the CDC, WHO and local governmental authorities.
MSE’s decision seems in conflict with public health and with Ted Leonsis’s own oft-repeated philosophy for operating the team as a public trust.
Update: March 12, 5:45 PM: Ted Leonsis has made a statement on his blog:
In the case of the recommendation issued by DC Health (a department under the Mayor’s jurisdiction) to cancel events with 1,000 or more people yesterday morning, we immediately informed the NBA and NHL of that announcement, and we strongly advocated for permission to hold games at our arena without fans. But a recommendation from the city health department was not a mandate or ban and the leagues decided to continue as planned. It wasn’t until later that it became clear that the seasons would be suspended.
This is a partial list. All quotes are from Leonsis.
I honestly do think the community owns the teams, that these are public trusts.
Cigar Aficianado, 2001
We’re ingrained now. We’re a public trust and utility.
The Dinner Club: How the Masters of the Internet Universe Rode the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Boom in History, 2007
We will always operate the team as if it is a public trust. It is our job and responsibility to hold a mirror up to our community and be a reflection of the best of our fan base. We will always strive to be transparent and open and communicate often and honestly with our fan base.
Ted’s Take, 2009
I view owning a sports team – it’s a public trust. You have the psychological well-being of millions of people in the palm of your hand.
My partners and I look forward to playing a more significant role in the fabric of the nation’s capital and the surrounding communities. Sports have a significant impact on the day-to-day life of any great city and I believe that owning teams is a public trust.
I learned an enormous amount from profiling and working around Abe Pollin and the Pollin family. We both believe that owning sports teams is a major public trust. I talk a lot about the power of double-bottom-line businesses and sports teams are truly double-bottom-line businesses.
But I will say Mr. Pollin was kind of the archetype of teaching owners that teams are a public trust. He was beloved in the city, he gave a lot back, and when you look at when something has gone off track, it’s usually because that double bottom line was missed.
106.7 via DC Sports Bog, 2010
It will require a group effort. I consider a sports team a public trust, and we will only reach our goals with the cooperation of our fans, staff, corporate partners and players.
[The new logo] It will serve as a visual reminder of the ultimate goal: winning championships in the NBA, NHL and WNBA as well as taking pride in successfully managing this tremendous public trust on a daily basis.
Owning the Washington Capitals is not simply being the proprietor of a business. It is, as Abe Pollin said, a public trust.
The Business of Happiness, 2010
[Owning a team] is a civic and public trust. And it’s a much bigger responsibility than just running a business.
Bleacher Report, 2011
. . . And I initially passed when Dick Patrick approached me to buy the Caps. I was President of America Online, married. I had young children. Thought it was a lot of money. I thought it was a lot of work. I frankly didn’t want the notoriety and the spotlight that that would be a tough environment, because I knew what I would get into in running a public trust.
National Press Club, 2014
Sports teams: Might be a public trust but not a public stock?
In no other industry or business do you have this visceral emotional connection. And if you don’t take that seriously and understand the impact that you have, you can’t be a good owner. You can’t be a good steward. And it truly is a public trust. It’s not my team. It’s your team. It’s our team. I’m just kind of the steward of it.
So what does public trust mean?
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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