The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball are making a major change in response to fears of the recent coronavirus outbreak.
The NBA plans to close off locker room access to all but players and essential team personnel, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst. Additionally, teams will be instructed to maintain a 6-8 foot buffer between players and press during postgame media sessions outside the locker room.
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
Meanwhile, MLB sources told Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser that the league will be taking similar action in closing off clubhouses and advising teams to maintain a six-foot distance from reporters.
The league will also be monitoring the spread of the virus on a local level and could move games outside of a team’s metropolitan areas if advised by authorities.
It remains to be seen if the leagues take further measures to limit potential exposure to the virus. If a few dozen people are enough of a danger that teams can’t even let players near them, you have to wonder what message the leagues are sending when they let tens of thousands of people sit in close contact for hours.
MLS joins the movement
Major League Soccer confirmed that it and the other leagues would all be closing locker rooms to the media an hour after the reports emerged.
NBA’s reporters respond to decision
The Professional Basketball Writers Association released a statement in response to the news, saying it was in support of the measure as long as full access is restored to reporters once the coronavirus crisis settles down.
Coronavirus continues to be felt in sports
The two leagues are following the lead of the NHL, which closed off locker room access on Saturday in favor of postgame news conferences. While the NBA season is in full swing, the MLB season is not currently expected to be postponed or altered, but that could obviously change in the near future.
The brunt of the chaos that is planning a major event amid the coronavirus outbreak has been felt even harder in other sports and countries. The Indian Wells tennis tournament, the biggest non-Grand Slam tennis tournament in the world, was called off Sunday amid such fears.
Meanwhile, Italy — one of the countries hit hardest by the virus — has suspended all domestic sporting events, while Japan has played preseason baseball games in empty stadiums and delayed the opening day of Nippon Professional Baseball.
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