The NBA released a memo to teams on Friday, telling them to prepare to play without fans in the stands in light of the coronavirus outbreak. If that’s the case, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James won’t be on the court.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the memo from the league told teams to start developing contingency plans in case “it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.
James responded to that report after he led the Lakers to a 113-103 victory against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James told reporters. “I’m not playing if we don’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 an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”
The NBA has been monitoring the situation like many other organizations around the world, keeping in touch with the top authorities.
“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement earlier in the week. “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.”
Rockets Owner Not Backing Plan to Play Without Fans
“I don’t think you ever want to play games in front of no audiences. If it ever got so bad, and this is just my opinion, I would hope that we would just suspend for a week, or two weeks, or whatever,” he told CNBC. “You don’t want to play games with no fans. That’s never going to work.”
Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola also came out against the NHL doing a similar tactic, although he admitted that he understands the need for a “contingency plan.”
“The fans come first. Their safety is paramount,” Viola told CNBC. “Obviously we don’t want to conduct an activity if we think there’s even the slightest chance that that activity is going to promote the spread of a not normal virus.”
College Basketball Weighing Options Ahead of March Madness
The NBA is not the only basketball organization weighing their options. With the NCAA Tournament around the corner, college basketball officials are looking at their options for the Big Dance.
“The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space,” the statement read. “The panel members believe that we need to better understand COVID-19 while continuing to work with local, state and federal health authorities such as the CDC. …
“At present the panel is not recommending cancellation or public spacing of athletic and related events scheduled to occur in public spaces across the United States.”