US to lift entry ban on certain international athletes

Lee Westwood (Credit: Getty Images)

Certain international athletes have been allowed to take part in sporting competition in the United States in the coming weeks amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, has signed an order that will exempt some foreign athletes, along with their essential staff and dependents, from entry bans imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.

“Professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, but equally important, they provide community pride and national unity,” Wolf said in a statement. “In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.”

The leagues covered by the exemption include Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, Women’s National Basketball Association, Professional Golfers’ Association, Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, National Hockey League, Association of Tennis Professionals, and Women’s Tennis Association.

The countries and regions affected by the exemption include the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Iran, and the 26 European countries that comprise the Schengen Area.

The move would particularly benefit global sports such as golf and tennis, each of which have upcoming major tournaments that have been rescheduled from their original spring and early summer schedules, and have particularly high percentages of non-Americans comprising their player bases.

But it also means that US-based athletes who returned to their home countries during the health crisis can now return to the States. This includes Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who flew home on a private jet to Slovenia after the National Basketball Association shutdown in March.

It is unclear what this means for sports organizations not listed by the Department of Homeland Security.

A number of golfers have already announced that they will initially not compete on the PGA Tour due to the health crisis, including Australian Adam Scott, and Englishmen Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood.