Report: NBA Tells Teams to Prepare to Play Without Fans in Coronavirus Memo

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveils the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award during a news conference Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
David Banks/Associated Press

The NBA may soon be directly affected by concerns over the coronavirus.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium and Marc Stein of the New York Times, the league has reached out to teams regarding the possibility of playing games without fans and media in attendance:

That follows a report from Mark Medina, Bob Nightengale, Tom Schad and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today on Thursday that noted, "Multiple NBA team executives told USA Today Sports they have considered playing behind closed doors but only as a last-resort contingency plan. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the situation."

The NBA wouldn't be alone in taking such measures.

The Chinese Basketball Association suspended its season in February, while the city of Austin canceled the SXSW festival, and the Overwatch League has postponed all of its events in China and South Korea thus far. In Italy, all sporting events are being held without fans. 

There is the possibility that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics could be postponed or canceled altogether, depending on the spread of the virus, while a number of other leagues and sports have canceled events across the globe.

To this point, the United States hasn't seen its major sports cancel events or have the events take place without spectators—with the exception of Chicago State University, which canceled its Division I men's and women's basketball games—though such measures could be forthcoming. 

One major consideration teams are facing is the economic impact of playing games without spectators. No fans in the stands means no revenues from concessions and in-game merchandising, while broadcasters could see a dip in ratings without the in-game atmosphere provided by spectators. 

And restricting games to only players and essential personnel could also mean a number of vendors and stadium support staff being without work. Protecting people from the potential spread of a virus that has reportedly infected over 100,000 people worldwide and led to 3,400 deaths will take top priority if the virus continues to proliferate in the United States, but the impact of such measures could be far-ranging.

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