News of the coronavirus has spread faster and wider than the virus itself, it seems. Now we’re seeing reports that even the sports world is being impacted by it as professional sports teams face the very real possibility of having to play in empty stadiums with no spectators.
According to USA Today, multiple NBA team executives have said they’ve considered playing behind closed doors but only as a last-resort contingency plan. Sports teams around the globe have had to deal with the same, not just as a possibility, but as a reality.
Well, Los Angeles Laker LeBron James ain’t having it.
According to Huffington Post, James says, coronavirus be damned, he refuses to play basketball behind closed doors.
“Play games without the fans? No. That’s impossible. I ain’t playing,” James told reporters after the Lakers’ victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Staples Center on Friday.
“I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for,” James continued. “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 are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”
Given his nonchalant tone, it’s unclear whether or not James is serious about refusing to play sans audience (even the reporters can be heard laughing it off). Maybe it was just a knee-jerk offhand comment. After all, the game still counts as a win or loss whether there’s a crowd to witness it or not. One would like to assume that James understands the very real public health risks involved in the possibility of him or any other professional athlete having to play in an empty house.
According to HuffPost, James’ comments came just hours after the worldwide tally for infections passed the 100,000. Coronavirus has killed at least 17 people in the U.S. as of Saturday morning. Despite that. U.S. federal health officials say he immediate health risk to the general public remains low. It’s possible this is why many Americans have a somewhat cavalier attitude towards a possible pandemic. (It probably doesn’t help that our own president keeps trying to downplay the seriousness of the virus’ threat, contradicting reports by the CDC.)
Again, pro-sports teams all over the world have already had to take unusual precautions. Soccer teams in Europe have not only had to play in closed-door arenas, but they’ve also had to cancel games altogether and, recently, Axios reported that the Premier League has banned the ceremonial pre-match handshake.
One can imagine how much it must suck to play in an empty, quiet arena when you’re used to playing to roaring crowds of thousands, but there are certainly far more serious issues that coronavirus presents.