On Friday, before the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks went head-to-head at Staples Center, the NBA sent out a memo to its teams telling them to prepare to play games without fans present in case of a possible COVID-19, or Coronavirus, outbreak in the United States, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
While there are no plans to have teams play in empty stadiums just yet, the league wants its teams prepared if “it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.”
Sources: The NBA has sent a memo to its franchises explaining that, due to coronavirus outbreak, teams should be preparing to play games without fans in attendance and identifying “essential staff” present for these games -- should it be necessary.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 7, 2020
Postponing or canceling any game due to the coronavirus is a league office decision but the NBA, sources say, has notified teams to start "developing" contingency plans in case "it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present" -- no fans, media, etc— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) March 7, 2020
This type of precaution would be unprecedented for an American sports league, but the NBA wouldn’t be the first entertainment giant to be affected by the virus that has infected over 300 people in the U.S and 10,000 people worldwide. On Friday, the City of Austin, Texas cancelled SXSW. This year will mark the first time in 34 years the festival won’t take place.
The NBA hasn’t cancelled games yet, nor are there any immediate plans to play games in empty arenas that we know of, but they are scenarios that are being discussed. But if the league decides to put an indefinite suspension of fans attending games this season, there’s already one player who said he won’t participate: LeBron James.
“Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing,” James said after Friday’s win. “If I ain’t got the fans in the crowd, that’s who I play for. I play for my teammates and I play for the fans, that’s what it’s all about. If I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in there? I ain’t playing. So they can do what they want to do.”
The hope is that it won’t have to come to that, and the situation gets resolved sooner rather than later. Until then, 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.
For more information on the Coronavirus, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.