Coronavirus: NBA tells teams to prepare for possibility of games without fans

What if they had a sporting event and nobody came? Thanks to the coronavirus, that possibility is being raised.

In a memo sent Friday, the NBA told teams they should be preparing contingency plans to play games without fans in attendance amid fears of the novel coronavirus, Sports Illustrated reported.

The memo was first reported by The Athletic.

The memo, which follows a previous directive sent last week with recommendations on how to handle the virus, also said the game’s attendees would be limited to what is deemed “essential staff,” excluding fans and members of the media, ESPN reported.

Some sports have already taken fans out of the equation, according to Sports Illustrated. That includes the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III basketball tournament at Johns Hopkins University, preseason Nippon Professional Baseball, South Korean basketball games and some Europa League soccer matches, the magazine reported.

“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement on 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.”

Several NBA players, including superstar LeBron James, criticized the idea of playing in front of empty arenas, ESPN reported.

“Nah, that’s impossible,” James told reporters Friday night after the Lakers’ 113-103 win against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I ain’t playing. If I ain’t got the fans in the crowd, that’s what 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 ain’t no fans there? I ain’t playing. So, they could do what they want to do.”

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said he hoped an empty arena scenario could be avoided.

“That would be terrible,” Walker told reporters. “That would be boring. They might as well cancel the whole game before that. That would suck. But at the end of the day, it is getting serious. I don’t know. It would be very weird though, for sure.”

According to the memo, teams should also prepare for the possibility of implementing temperature checks on players, team staff, referees and other essential personnel, ESPN reported.