LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have made it adamant that they play for the fans.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the league has tried to prepare teams for the possibility of playing games with "essential personnel only" in order to protect the players and fans from infection. Not only has this idea not been implemented, but it has been actively rejected by some (like LeBron and Giannis) who insist that they will not play if there are no fans to watch.
But according to Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious-disease expert at UC Berkeley, it's not smart for the league to still be hosting games right now as COVID-19 makes its way through the country.
Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious-disease expert at UC Berkeley, was blunt about it. When asked Monday whether the Warriors and other NBA teams should still be hosting games right now, during the COVID-19 threat, he replied: “No.”
When pressed for further explanation he said, “I think large gatherings of people in closed environments in the case of a pandemic is not prudent. It’s the perfect way to spread the virus.”
Of course, the NBA has taken some action by limiting locker-room access and having its people on high-alert. But, as Ethan Strauss explains, those measures may seem trivial as things worsen nationwide.
For those who might be reflexively dismissive of concern, Italy is currently under a lockdown because thousands are sick with the virus. One perspective on the crisis is that Italy is a couple of weeks ahead of the United States in terms of spread and that this is our immediate future.
If this is anything close to the case, the NBA, NHL and MLB’s half-measures to cut down locker room access will instantly seem quite trivial, if not too late. If the spread increases by an order of magnitude, it will be insanely difficult to justify the continuation of games, especially now that Santa Clara County banned the Sharks (and all other entities) from hosting gatherings attended by more than a 1,000 people for the rest of March, which includes three upcoming home games at SAP Center. Meanwhile, the A’s and Giants are scheduled to open their seasons at the end of this month.
The method of transmission, as Dr. Swartzberg explains, is primarily through "large- to medium-sized droplets that extend from the individual who’s expelling them." As one can imagine, that type of spread is hard to monitor, especially in a setting where thousands of people are meeting and gathering in close quarters.
We have yet to find out just how bad COVID-19 will get but large public gatherings certainly won't help contain things.
It will be interesting to see how the NBA, and other sports leagues around the country, respond as the situation develops.