As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the United States, the NBA has taken a precautionary step by restricting locker room access to only players and essential team personnel, per a report on Monday afternoon from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Reporting with @WindhorstESPN: NBA is planning to limit locker room access to only players and essential team personnel in wake of coronavirus. Teams are also instructed to create a 6-to-8 foot distance between players and media in availability sessions outside locker rooms.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 9, 2020
Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN also reported that the league has scheduled a conference call for Wednesday, March 11 to discuss the next steps with team governors. This comes after the league sent a memo to all 30 teams to have contingency plans to play games with no fans and only essential staff present.
Currently, teams are required to provide locker room access to the media both before and after games. Presumably, this media availability will still happen in different settings, and as Wojnarowski notes, with six-to-eight foot buffers between players and reporters.
The APSE (Associated Press Sports Editors) put out a statement earlier Monday in support of continued access to players, with due consideration to any precautions necessary to limit the spread of the virus. The statement is signed by the presidents of Associated Press Sports Editors, Pro Football Writers of America, North American Soccer Reporters, United States Basketball Writers Association, Professional Basketball Writers Association, Professional Hockey Writers Association and Baseball Writers Association of America. The crux of the message reads:
We are intent on working with the leagues, teams and schools we cover to maintain safe work environments. We also must ensure the locker room access — which we have negotiated over decades — to players, coaches and staff is not unnecessarily limited in either the short or long term.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that the number of coronavirus cases has reached 16 in L.A. County as of March 9.
Before the NBA’s announcement, the Clippers had made some of their own changes to normal practices, including eliminating autographs and high fives with fans as the players walk through the tunnel to the Staples Center court.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game that he will accept whatever directives the league gives regarding coronavirus.
“I’m not educated enough to actually know what we should do, so all I do, I am smart enough to know I should just listen,” Rivers said. “If they tell me not to show, I’m not showing. There’s a reason for that. There’s pretty smart people who are making that decision. If they tell us we can play, then I have to have blind trust and faith and hopefully they get it right.”
This story will be updated with more information. For more information on the Coronavirus, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.