U.S.-based sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and NCAA, are preparing for the worst then it comes to a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The NBA sent a memo to its teams detailing that they should be developing contingency plans for potentially playing games without fans and media in attendance and identifying “essential staff” needed for those games if an outbreak of the virus should occur, according to a tweet Friday night by The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Postponing or canceling games would be a league decision.
The memo, according to ESPN, also stated that clubs should be ready for the possibility of having temperature checks of players, staff, referees and other essential game personnel.
Earlier this month, the NBA cautioned players to limit their interactions with fans, such as giving high-fives and accepting items to autograph. The NHL also has sent a similar memo to its franchises.
“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement Monday. “We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus and continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The NBA and NHL aren’t the only ones taking precautions.
The NCAA’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are less than two weeks away and the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel said Friday it is “not recommending cancellation or public spacing of athletic and related events scheduled to occur in public spaces across the United States.” Contingency plans are being discussed, however, including playing games with only essential personnel present, similar to what the NBA is proposing.
Other sporting events already have been played without fans.
The NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament is playing two rounds of games at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore with no fans allowed. The first round games Friday, between Yeshiva University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and between Johns Hopkins and Penn State Harrisburg, were played in a nearly empty gym because of Maryland’s recently confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The NHL’s San Jose Sharks’ home game against the Ottawa Senators slated for Saturday night remains on as scheduled despite a recommendation to cancel large gatherings in the Santa Clara County, Calif., where the SAP Center is located. The Sharks are recommending fans follow the county’s Public Health Department recommendation that “persons at higher risk” should avoid mass gatherings.
— with AP