After successfully completing the 2019-2020 NBA season in a bubble-environment, the incidence of Covid-19 cases has steadily increased. The league, therefore, has provided updated guidelines and protocols for the upcoming season. Likely due to the severity of the continued pandemic, there could be disciplinary action taken for players gathering in large groups.
In the nearly 160-page memo with measures to limit the spread of the virus, players and staff will be prohibited from engaging in social situations such as public gyms, bars, clubs, and other live entertainment venues with more than 15 people present. While players will be allowed to dine out, it must be outdoor or in private rooms. To try to keep players adhering to the guidelines, officials may appear at team facilities at a moment’s notice.
If players are found to be in violation of the Covid-19 protocols, they can be punished in terms of warnings, fines, and even suspensions, as reported by ESPN. In addition, teams not reporting any violations or failing to discipline those for violations can also be punished. The league reported nearly ten percent of the 546 players tested positive for the virus upon returning to training. The potential good news is that a viable vaccine is scheduled to become available sometimes in the next several months. The NBA will discuss with the players’ union whether or not league employees will get the vaccine once it is approved by the FDA.
While the rules seem strict, it must be in order to avoid the issues that the MLB had earlier this year with several teams having to postpone and/or reschedule games. Similar incidences have taken place in the NFL this season, despite regular testing and protocols. Should players test positive and have to quarantine, they “may be subject to a proportionate adjustment to pay for any games missed during the period”. The NBA has put forth a plan to play 72 games this season, down just ten from a normal schedule. The ambitious schedule is set to begin on December 22. Preseason games are scheduled to begin in the coming week.
The key to success will be how well everyone adheres to the protocols, particularly with games not being played in a bubble. The risk is clearly increased with travel and one must also wonder which teams will allow spectators. Pure logic indicates that the more people around, the greater the risk for everyone involved. Of course, there has to be some sort of “normal”, but not like we have seen in the past. When an approved and proven vaccine is administered, then and only then things will get back to how they were. In the meantime, adhering to rules is the only way for the NBA season to go smoothly and complete a full season.