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USFJ-AFL season canceled due to coronavirus concerns

Running back Deirre Lismon and the Hansen Outlaws were leading the regular season at 3-0 when play in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League regular season was suspended due to coronavirus concerns.

DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | Stars and Stripes | Published: June 13, 2020

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Citing continuing concerns over the coronavirus and potentially restarting play during summer heat, commissioner Columbus Wilson Jr. announced Saturday that the rest of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League season has been canceled.

“We still can’t play” due to the USFJ public health emergency which was extended earlier this week to July 14, “and … I’m not willing to have the players playing in the heat of the (Okinawa) summer,” Wilson said in a statement.

The 2020 season was at the halfway point, with two-time defending league champion Hansen at 3-0, followed by second-place Foster (2-1), Kinser (1-2) and Ryukyu University (0-3), when the regular season was suspended in mid-March.

Even if play could be resumed, players would have to undergo another period of training and conditioning, then play as many as five weeks after that, three regular season weeks and two weeks of playoffs.

“It’s not worth the risk,” Wilson said.

The regular season began in mid-February and was scheduled to run through the first weekend of April, followed by two weeks of playoffs. The league’s championship Torii Bowl game was scheduled for April 26.

The USFJ-AFL has operated since the 2000 season. Only twice before had play been interrupted for lengthy periods: following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and again two years later as Operation Iraqi Freedom was ramping up. The Torii Bowl was canceled each of those seasons.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com
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