As coronavirus concerns continue to impact every facet of life, NBA ownership groups are building out contingency plans for how to handle the crisis.
As the coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe the ripple effects of the respiratory virus are being felt in every facet of life. We’ve seen major festivals/conventions like SXSW and Ultra Music Festival in Miami get canceled and Serie A soccer games in Italy have been taking place without fans. The San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the NBA could be next to take precautionary measures.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the NBA has scheduled a conference call with all NBA teams on Wednesday to discuss the spread of the virus, the next steps for the league, and possible contingency plans. One idea that has found increased traction has been the possibility of playing games with only essential personal in arenas.
This comes on the heels of another leak from the NBA, courtesy of Mark Medina, Bob Nightengale, Tom Schad, and Jeff Zillgitt with USA TODAY. The four reported that numerous NBA executives have been considering the possibility of playing behind closed doors. No NBA sources were named in the report as none were officially authorized to speak on the issue. We may get an official announcement from Adam Silver and the NBA after the leagues’ conference call on Wednesday.
Questions about the potential handling of the virus, including playing games without fans present, have been asked in post-game pressers. After his dominant performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, LeBron James wasn’t shy about his feelings on the possibility of playing without fans at games.
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“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James said. “I ain’t playing 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. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”
We will see how the NBA decides to handle the spread of the virus but it’s would be a landmark moment if players like James decided to boycott games if fans are not there.
Even if fans aren’t present in the arenas there would still be millions of fans around the globe tuning in to see the LeBron led Lakers in the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine LeBron sitting out a playoff game but at this point, nothing can be totally ruled out.
The economic impacts of playing the games would clearly be substantial. Taking fans out of arenas completely removes the potential for in-game sales of merchandise, concessions, parking in nearby lots, and pre and post-game gatherings at local bars and restaurants. But if it comes down to reducing the spread of a potentially deadly virus or losing out on income the path forward for the league should be clear.
The situation continues to develop and we will surely know more about how the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the NBA plans to handle the spread of the virus after the call on Wednesday. We will continue to update our coverage as we know more.