UPDATE: The NBA has cancelled its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
Original story continued below.
As the country continues to look for solutions to slow the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, in the United States, the NBA is moving towards playing games in empty arenas rather than postponing the season, according to reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN:
New story filed to ESPN:— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 11, 2020
The NBA’s Board of Governors shared a consensus on Wednesday to continue the season playing games without fans in arenas amid the coronavirus crisis, and Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to move in that direction with a decision on Thursday.
Several teams were willing to put the games on hiatus, but the rest wanted to move toward eliminating fans from arenas to continue playing games, sources tell ESPN. One team wanted to keep status quo until a governmental/public mandate dictated change: The New York Knicks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
Reporting with @ZachLowe_NBA: Consensus among owners on Board of Governors call with league office was either continue season with no fans in arenas -- or have NBA take a hiatus for a period time. NBA is expected to have a decision as soon as Thursday on next steps.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 11, 2020
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that a similar call is scheduled with the league’s general managers for Thursday.
One other option on the table, per Wojnarowski, was moving games to cites that had yet to suffer outbreaks, or to neutral sites. In some cases, the decision is being taken out of the NBA's hands, like in San Francisco, where a ban on gatherings of over 1,000 people is affecting Golden State Warriors games.
The league also joined with the MLB, MLS, and NHL in barring media members and other personnel deemed “nonessential” from locker rooms. Back on March 6, a memo was sent to teams instructing them to have plans in place in the event that “it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.”
At the time, Lakers star LeBron James said he wanted no part of that plan, but later said he misunderstood the question, and that he would play in games in empty arenas should the league take the step of making such a change.
“If they’re saying no one can actually come to the game, if they decide to go to that point, I’d be disappointed in that. But at the same time, you’ve got to listen to the people that’s keeping track of what’s going on,” James said. “if they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we’ll all listen to it.”
As a reminder, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking people to:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
This story will be updated with more information. For more information on the coronavirus, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.