The NFL is fortunate, relatively speaking, that the coronavirus (officially, COVID-19) has begun spreading domestically during the league’s offseason — and a week after the annual Indianapolis convention known as the Scouting Combine. Other professional sports leagues won’t be as lucky.
The NBA, which is in the final several weeks of its regular season, has begun making plans for dealing with the inevitable spread of the virus. Via ESPN.com, the immediate, low-tech solution has focused on recommending that players choose fist bumps over high fives with fans, and that players refrain from taking pens, ball, and jerseys from fans for autographs.
The NBA also is looking at the possibility of limiting or canceling pre-draft combines, on-site workouts, and international scouting events, based on the extent of the outbreak.
There’s no mention made in the memo obtained by ESPN.com of NBA games, which will entail on an ongoing basis into June people gathering in the thousands at various arenas throughout the country. Canceling the games surely isn’t an option. Playing them before an empty arena for TV purposes, in theory, could be. And it may not be voluntary; whether or not tickets have been purchased, people may simply choose to stay away.
As of Sunday, the NFL said it is “closely monitoring” the coronavirus situation. Even though football season doesn’t begin to return until the Hall of Fame game in August, the draft in Las Vegas is looming, only 51 days away. Before that, the league’s power brokers (and a swarm of media) will gather in Palm Beach for the annual league meetings.
Depending on how the next couple of weeks ago, those events could see significant changes.