Sports leagues and associations around the world are continuing to grapple with the best way to move forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While some have returned to action in empty stadiums and under strict health protocols, others are still determining how to move forward.

Amid the uncertainty, TSN has been asking athletes for their thoughts on the many issues they face surrounding a potential return to play.

The following are edited and condensed transcripts of those interviews. 


Fred VanVleet, point guard for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors

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It sounds like the NBA has made some progress towards a return to play and maybe salvaging the season. What are you hearing from the players association and does it seem like it’s realistic?

“The crazy part is that everything we hear is out, you know what I mean? Like, there are no secrets really. There’s not much that you guys don’t know that we know. Obviously, we probably have a little bit more candid conversations in private. But, yeah, as of now what’s out there is about Orlando and Vegas and trying to get back and see what that would look like, try to get teams a couple weeks to get ready to play and then see what happens. So, I think the optimism, there’s some credence to it, but obviously we all know the challenges that we’re facing. I just think that the combination of there being so much money involved and 450 guys who live and die basketball, I think there are a lot of reasons to get back to playing. So, I think the motive is there, the want to play is there, the resources are there. It’s just a matter of figuring out how we can put it together in the right way where it’s safe and efficient. There’s gonna be risk regardless. There’s risk if you cancel the season and there’s risk if we get back together. But I think the league is just trying to assess those risks and make sure we’ve got all of our bases covered.”

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What would you need to see implemented or changed for you to feel comfortable going back?

“If I’m there by myself I think I’m okay with it. Now, if my kids were there, or things like that, I would be a little bit more on guard. That’s just me speaking personally. I’m pretty at ease with it. I’m not letting it freak me out but I also, to my knowledge, don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions or anything like that. So, there are guys in the league that are probably going to have real concerns about the virus itself and I understand that, but I think for me personally I’m not in that boat, so to speak. I think as long as they’re doing their due diligence and it’s not just a money play, where it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s get back to play because we have all this money we need to make up.’ I know that’s probably one of the factors but as long as there are real guidelines in terms of what we’re doing from a health standpoint, which I feel there is, I think that I’ll be okay with it. And if not, I’ve accepted it. I think we’ve been on break long enough to where I’m pretty open-minded to any idea that gets us back playing, you know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they cancelled the season because I understand all of the things that go into it, but I definitely wanna get back out there.”

How closely are you following the developments with the virus?

“Not much. I’m not going to lie to you. I gave up on it after a few weeks. I’m not blind to it but I’m not watching CNN every day, I’m not tuned in to Twitter every day. If I get on the phone with our medical team and they’ve got something new for me, then I’ll go from there but not much more than that just because I feel like there’s so much other bulls--t out there and it’s hard to follow right now. My family is safe so far. We’re good, we’re locked in and that’s kinda my concern right now. I’m not out running around to where I feel like I need to be trying to keep up with all the politics and everything else that goes into it.”

Interview conducted by Josh Lewenberg


James van Riemsdyk, forward for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and member of the league’s Return to Play Committee

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What are your biggest concerns around the NHL potentially resuming play?

"There's just so much uncertainty. That's been the biggest thing; I think that's been tough just in talking to a lot of different players and even to guys from different sports. I feel like that uncertainty for all of us, just like everyone else [in the world], is the toughest part. …Being on the committee for the return to play stuff though, I think that's been good. It quells or alleviates some of the concerns you have about the safety aspect. When you hear so much stuff and you read so much stuff, being on the committee's calls and talking through things with the committee has been crucial to knowing that the safety of everyone involved is going to be paramount and they're not going to sacrifice that for anything else. So I think that's eased some concerns that maybe I would have had otherwise, because I think [the NHL] is only going to try to get things going again if they feel like they have the infrastructure in place to keep us safe and the proper testing resources to keep us safe, while also not taking away from people in the public that may be more vulnerable and might need access to those tests.”

How optimistic are you from the conversations you’re having and hearing about that a return to play can happen in a safe way?

"I like to stay on the positive side of things in general. With this, there's just so much unknown out there, so I think as more time passes, the more comfortable people will get interpreting the data and things like that. Hopefully there's some sort of road that becomes fairly obvious on what's needed to get things done in a manner that's safe for everyone involved. We obviously see some of these other leagues over in Europe that are coming back, some different soccer leagues, and then the Korean baseball. So there's some stuff that maybe we can try to learn from them and things that they thought worked well in their system and things they'd like to maybe optimize a bit. I think just not being first, it gives you a chance to sit back and watch and see how it all shakes out for these other leagues that are in a position to open up now."

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You’re a husband and a new father [to daughter Scarlett, born in early May]. What kinds of conversations have you had as a family about potentially going to a hub city and being apart? 

“They're not asking us in any kind of sense to be away from our families for four months or whatever period of time it would be. So I think it would be something that will probably be a little bit more manageable. It may not be perfectly ideal in the sense of what we're used to, where in a normal season you’d get to see your family every day or maybe you're gone just for a week or two. Now, it might be a little bit longer than that, but that's another factor that’s being taken into account because being there to support your family is a big thing and you’re wanting to keep them safe, too. But as far as overall concerns for all these things, I think just the fact that I'm able to hear some of the conversations and the dialogue behind the scenes because of this committee, I think you are able to alleviate some of these concerns just because you know people are considering them and talking about them and thinking them through and there's no stone that will be unturned.” 

How does the business side of the NHL work into those conversations you’re having, and how are they weighed against all the other concerns you’ve mentioned?

“We're trying to navigate through that business stuff, just like all the other concerns. The priority has been the health and safety aspect and no matter what financially is at stake, we have to get that part addressed first and not do anything that's extra risky. [The finances] are something that's been talked about because obviously there is that aspect of the financial and business side of the game, but I think we're not going to sacrifice anything on the health and safety side because of the financial side.”

Interview conducted by Kristen Shilton


Kia Nurse, guard for the WNBA’s New York Liberty

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You come from a family of athletes. How interesting has it been discussing a return to play with your brother (NHLer Darnell Nurse) and cousin (Team Canada women's hockey player Sarah Nurse)?

“It’s been really interesting, just in the sense, I feel like every other day we're asking, 'Have you heard anything new today?' And then it comes right back to me, 'Have you heard anything new?' …With our league, we're trying to figure out pay right now because we hadn't started before all of this happened, and with my brother’s league they were already through the season pretty much. Just little conversations about that stuff and understanding if it’s okay to go back without fans and understanding that it's going to be different for a little while but knowing that our sports are different too. In hockey, they can wear a full mask. In basketball, we’re supposed to take away the offensive space, we're supposed to be up and in them so they can feel us breathing on them. That’s not necessarily what you'd want to do during COVID. Just small conversations like that.”

What concerns do you have with potential hub cities? What do you hope that they look like?

“…It would be easier for our league to do, because we're small; to find a place where we can all be and be able to reside and be able to have our own rooms. And I think, if we're looking at our league, the two places that makes sense are Las Vegas and Connecticut. I'm looking at: So, you're asking us to come play, what's the testing protocol? When, and how many times, are we getting tested? What are you doing about foreigners? Because I'm considered a foreigner. You can't give me two weeks’ notice and then say, ‘We need you to quarantine for two weeks,’ because I would need four in that case. More decisive answers on that and more decisive answers on what are we doing in terms of if you’re testing us are you testing us strictly for symptoms? Are you testing us for antibodies? What does the testing look like? What does that mean for us? Where do we have to be? How does that look? How do you test us for those things? …If you're in a clean site, essentially, you still need referees, you still need score keepers, you need people on the bench, so how does that work for them? Are they allowed to go back to their families at night and then come back to us the next day, or are they also staying in the hotel with us?”

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What do you say to someone who says there are far bigger concerns right now and it’s not the time for sport?

“…I understand that. I think that everybody should have access to testing, everybody should be able to have access to health care. The more I travel, the more places that I go, the more grateful I am for what Canada is and who we are and how we take care of each other. I understand it. I also understand that there are going to be opinions left, right, and centre – 50 per cent of people are going to agree with you, 50 per cent are not going to. That’s okay. I think it is a great thing for the economy when sports are up and running, but I know for myself personally I don’t ever want to take a kind of selfish look at it and just say I need it and I need this income and I need this whatever. It’s more about if this is a safe thing to do right now. It’s what I love to do; I know at some point it will come back when it’s safe.”

Interview conducted by Matthew Scianitti


Delvin Breaux, cornerback for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats

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How concerned is your family with the possibility of you going to play this summer?

“With my situation, my family is actually excited because they know I love the game of football and I would do anything to play the game of football. If it takes the facility to be clean, if I have to be the locker room police over my teammates, I will do that. I will be the police in my locker room. I know our health matters. If I have to do that, I would do that. But my family is excited, and they are ready to see me play.” 

How concerned are you about potential long-term health problems?

“I'm very concerned about my health because I have a kid and I want to be there for him and be healthy. If something happens somewhere down the line, I'm a big believer in God. I just have to pray to God to watch over me and keep me clean and healthy. I need to do my part as well, take care of my immune system and my son’s immune system. Make sure my house is clean and sanitized, do my part. If I have to wear a mask, I will wear a mask.”

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How concerned are you about league taking care of you if you got ill?

“That's going to be tough there. That's something we're going to have to sit down and talk to the [players] association because I want to know, if something does happen, that I will be covered. We are taking the risk; we are taking a chance  of getting an infection and getting sick and some other player might pass it on... we really have to cautious. And talking to the CFLPA,  I want to know I'm going to be damn covered because my family is going to want to know too. I want to know the players are going to be covered, not just me. We need to be covered.” 

Do you expect to play the game any differently?

“Hell no, I'm playing ball. It's football ... I broke my neck [playing football]. I'm out here playing football. When that referee blows that whistle, I'm playing ball, any and all rules go. We're ballin’. If you're saying you're going to be getting sick or your worried about that then stay in the locker room and don’t come out. I'm willing to take that risk because I'm taking care of my damn self. I'm going making sure I'm doing the right things, I'm eating healthy, my immune system is good.  I'm going to take care of myself. I ain’t going to change the way I play, hell no. I'm ballin’.”

Would you be willing to self-isolate for 14 days before the start of training camp?

“I'm with that. I'm doing whatever I've got to do ...14 days in Canada? Before I step on the field, I have to isolate for two weeks, 14 days?  Give me that, I will take that. I'm in Canada, I'm home. And then I get to go play football and make money and do what I love? Come on.” 

Interview conducted by Dave Naylor


Canadian tennis pro Gaby Dabrowski, ranked No. 7 in doubles and serves on the WTA Players' Council

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What has to happen for the tours, currently suspended through July, to return?

“I know if we do return to play the tours are already thinking about all the different precautions that one could take. I’m sure we’re all going to be tested before the tournament and during the tournament to see if anybody has the virus or a fever or anything like that. Tons of sanitary measures have been outlined for the tournaments and hotels, so I’m not worried about it.”

What precautions would need to be taken?

“I'm sure we’re all going to be tested before the tournament and during the tournament to see if anybody has the virus or a fever or anything like that. Tons of sanitary measures have been outlined for the tournaments and hotels, so I’m not worried about it ... I really don’t understand the recent thing about using your own tennis balls, because you touch your racquet, you touch your strings, so their tennis ball can be touching your strings and it’s the same thing as if you’re holding it in your hand... So, just try not to touch your face when you’re playing, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, that’s the best you can do.”

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What would you need to make you feel comfortable travelling around the world? 

“I don't live my life in fear. I just don't. So, for me, I'm not afraid. The only thing I would hate is if I did have it and I was asymptomatic, and I passed it on to someone else without knowing. I wouldn't want to live with that burden. In terms of me getting it, that’s okay. Whatever happens to me happens to me. I’m not afraid. I would love to see a vaccine, but those things take time, even if you have the whole world working on it. It’s not easy. It seems like we’re getting new information every few days about stuff. I literally stopped watching the news, because there’s so many mixed messages and a lot of it is fear-mongering and I don’t believe in that. So, I don’t know what to tell you. It is what it is and I’m waiting to see what happens.”

Interview conducted by Mark Masters