TRENTON, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy has given the go-ahead to professional sports teams which train or play in New Jersey to begin practice and compete in games or matches when their leagues resume competition.
“Our administration has been in constant discussions with our professional sports teams about a modified return to operations,” Murphy said. “While leagues make their own decisions about operations, I am confident that teams are equipped to practice and eventually play in a responsible manner, protecting the health and safety of players, coaches, and team personnel.”
The order explicitly allows professional athletes which train and/or play in New Jersey to fulfill their job duties. It allows for teams to utilize their New Jersey-based facilities for practice, training, and other purposes where team personnel have to be on location and cannot work remotely.
Locally, the Somerset Patriots baseball team, one of eight franchises in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball that plays its home games at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, are waiting for more clarity.
“The Somerset Patriots are continuously monitoring the news and following the guidelines determined by health experts and government officials," said Patrick McVerry, president/general manager of the franchise. "We will be ready to play when the time is right with the appropriate measures taken to protect our fans, staff, players and the entire community. We have been proactively looking at ways to best provide a safe environment at the ballpark when our season is able to begin.”
The Patriots have several players under contract, and would hold a pre-season "spring" training at the ballpark prior to the regular season.
The Patriots were scheduled to open their 2020 season May 1 with a home game against the Road Warriors; as of Wednesday, they would have already played 21 games at home and on the road.
Professional teams that either play and/or have practice facilities in New Jersey include the New York Giants football team, which has a practice facility alongside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford; the New York Jets, who play their home games at MetLife Stadium and an expansive practice facility in Florham Park; the Red Bull soccer team, which plays its home games in Hawthorne; the New Jersey Devils NHL team, which plays its home games at the Prudential Center in Newark, with a practice rink and executive offices adjacent to "The Rock;" the Philadelphia Flyers hockey club, which has a practice facility in Voorhees and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have a practice facility in Camden.
Leagues are in negotiations with their players' unions over conditions under which they would agree to play. There are other issues that are being dealt with, most notably, will fans be allowed in the stadiums and arenas to watch their teams play.
The New York Giants have indicated they might be ready to begins practice next week; the team released a statement in response to Murphy's announcement:
"Governor Murphy and his administration continue to guide New Jerseyans through this very difficult time. We have been in close contact with Governor Murphy's staff to comply with the state's protocols throughout. With today's announcement by the governor, we are finalizing our plans to reopen the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. We will continue to have as many employees as possible working remotely. For employees who need to return to work at our facility, we expect to begin that process next week, and we will do so in a systematic and safe way that adheres to the state's guidelines and NFL protocols."