As fears over the coronavirus outbreak continue to grow and sports leagues around the globe make contingency plans, the NBA on Friday reportedly sent a memo to teams telling them to begin “developing” plans to play games with no fans or media in attendance.
According to ESPN and The Athletic, the memo advised teams to have plans in place in case “it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.” Having only essential staff present, according to the reports, would mean fans and media members would not be among those allowed at the games.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA also sent teams a reminder of the league’s existing rules governing postponements and cancelations of games.
Earlier this week, the NBA advised players to limit contact with fans out of concern over the outbreak, recommending players use fist bumps instead of high-fives with fans and avoid handling anything passed to them by fans, such as pens and jerseys.
“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement issued 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 Chinese Basketball Association suspended play Feb. 1 over fears over the coronavirus. The outbreak began in China.
Also on Friday, the NCAA barred spectators from the Division III men’s basketball tournament games at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a host of esports competitions were canceled, postponed or limited to online-only games.
The Big Ten Network also is keeping its studio show team at home instead of going to Indianapolis to cover the conference tournament that begins Wednesday. Announcers and analysts plan to be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the games, though.
NBC News reported Friday that the death toll in the U.S. from the coronavirus has grown to 14, most of them in Washington state. More than 225 cases around the country have been confirmed.
Worldwide, more than 100,000 people have become ill, with more than 3,400 deaths — the majority of them in China — reported due to coronavirus.