NBA, owners set coronavirus conference call for Wednesday

NBA mulls limited fan presence at games amid outbreak

The NBA will hold a conference call with team owners Wednesday to discuss potential responses to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, according to a report.

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The conference call will occur amid mounting concerns that the coronavirus outbreak could force changes to the NBA’s schedule, including the possibility that games will be played without fans in attendance, ESPN reported. The league office has instructed teams to develop contingency plans, including essential staff that would be on hand if the NBA moves to limit fan presence.

Like many other sports leagues, the NBA has already taken precautionary steps. A league memo asked the NBA’s 30 teams to have several plans in place by Tuesday, including a designated infectious disease specialist and identification of a facility that can test for coronavirus, according to ESPN.

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In a joint announcement on Monday, the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS said they would bar all nonessential personnel, including media members, from team locker rooms until further notice. League officials said the move was meant to ensure player safety and that the media would have access to players in different settings.

“Given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice,” the leagues said in a statement. “Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”

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So far, the NBA has not made any changes to its schedule. The NCAA has indicated that it plans to hold its March Madness championship basketball tournaments as planned, though officials are developing contingency plans.

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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James pushed back against the possibility of playing NBA games without crowds.

“We play games without the fans? No, it’s impossible,” James told reporters Saturday. “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 — I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”

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