By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Word had circulated in the days following the initial sports shutdowns that not just the athletes and coaches were losing their livelihoods for the time being. Ushers, concession workers, security, interns and team staff were all among those who were joining the rest of the masses without a place to work.
As NBA superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson and Kevin Love – among dozens of others – and other league stars all pitched in for their respective compadres, the gestures that those who are not cheered on a nightly basis still needed to be covered with the loss of games.
One young man from Warsaw, Jonathan Murphy, knows all too well what thousands of service workers are dealing with in a closed sports environment. Murphy is a Masters’s student at Indiana University working on a degree in Sports Management and Athletic Administration. Several of his friends who were set to be sports interns lost their opportunities as the leagues were all either shut down or postponed indefinitely beginning in mid-March.
In response, Murphy created Staches Till Sports, a modest web site and movement to help those behind the scenes in athletics. While Murphy’s enterprises aren’t as visible as what someone like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has advertised, he’s not working with the same scope and capital. Murphy, however, is using social media and T-shirt sales to give back. Grow a mustache, buy a shirt.
“I thought that if I had lost my opportunity for this summer, that I am sure that the people who work at the stadiums are also going to be hurting,” Murphy said. “So that is why I decided to start this movement. I started this outreach and have been the one managing everything from running the website to sending out the orders. My sister, Kaitlyn Murphy, is the one who came up with our design and designed the T-shirts. She is a graphic designer and also the art teacher at both Harrison and Eisenhower elementary schools.”
Murphy’s shirt sales via Staches Till Sports are intending on aiding those in professional leagues, pointing to the NBA, MLB, MiLB and NHL. From the sales, $5 from every purchase will be set aside and donated to the professional leagues, the remainder of the cost goes back into the production of the shirts.
“We plan to keep this going until sports come back,” offered Murphy. “The whole movement of Staches Till Sports, is kind of like banding together and all growing mustaches until sports come back. So based on that idea, it would make sense to keep it running until we have our sports back.”
The professional leagues have been in constant communication about intentions to reopen, but all vary on guidelines and limitations as to what’s appropriate and able per governmental guidelines both in the United States and for players in foreign countries.
The NHL has pointed to a potential May 15 date to open workouts in limited cities, but faces roadblocks for players who are in Europe to get back into the United States, as well as being tested once in the country. Teams from heavily affected cities, such as Detroit and the New York area, also face heightened caution. The NHL halted its season with roughly 12-14 regular season games remaining ahead of its playoff series.
The NBA, which was the first league to stop its games and famously had Rudy Gobert become the first American-based professional athlete to test positive for COVID-19, is looking at opening practice for its teams in areas that are planning on lifting shut-in restrictions on May 1. The basketball regular season schedule is about three-quarters completed.
MLB has provided some of the most outward reopening strategies, including housing its entire league in Arizona during the summer to play in a virtual bubble, or to run its leagues in Florida and Arizona at the spring training sites to keep the players relatively sheltered among themselves.
Minor league baseball has canceled its operations for the 2020 season without a timeline of when it will resume activities.
In nearly every case, the professional leagues have not openly addressed the injection of fans to games. In most models in the short term, fans would not be permitted into games, which then again eliminates the usage of the service workers.