With the outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus continuing to spread across the globe, the NBA is taking steps to prepare for impacts. On Wednesday, there will be a conference call with NBA owners/governors to discuss next steps and contingency plans, per reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.
This call is expected to include discussions on possibly playing games in “closed” environments. These games would be played with only essential personnel in attendance. That is assumed to include the players, coaches, officials and other team personnel. Speculation is that the NBA would make every attempt to make sure games were still broadcast for fans.
Over the weekend news broke that the NBA had asked their teams to prepare contingency plans for a scenario such as the above. The league held a conference call with medical and training staffs from each team on Monday to discuss concerns about the coronavirus. The details of that call have yet to be shared, nor have any outcomes.
In recent weeks, several countries around the world have resorted to playing in closed environments, or outright postponing or cancelling games. Earlier in the day on Monday, Italy suspended play in all domestic sports leagues through the rest of March. The Chinese Basketball Association suspended operations at the end of January. They announced plans to resume play in early-April, but no further updates have been given.
Domestically, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells, California was cancelled. This prestigious tournament is considered to be the “fifth Grand Slam” by many in the tennis world. In addition, the 10-day multi-media festival South by Southwest was cancelled. That event was supposed to take place from March 13-22 and was expected to draw in excess of 200,000 attendees.
Last week, the NBA issued a memo to NBA teams suggesting that they limit contact with fans. This was done in an attempt to help keep team personnel safe from contracting the coronavirus.
In addition, the NBA has made teams and media aware that they could consider closing locker room for pre and postgame media access. Generally, players are made available to meet with the media pregame in the locker room and many postgame interviews are conducted in the same space. The league asked teams to prepare a contingency for alternate venues for media access, such as interview rooms. The National Hockey League has already taken the step of closing the locker room to all but team personnel. Major League Baseball is considering a similar step for their clubhouses.