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NBA referee Courtney Kirkland’s test for the coronavirus came back negative on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, and he is now cleared to leave Sacramento.
Kirkland was set to work the Kings’ game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night, which was going to be the final game before the NBA officially suspended operations amid the coronavirus outbreak. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus just hours before, which prompted the league to shut down. That late game on the West Coast, however, was allowed to proceed.
Just two days before that game, however, Kirkland worked the Jazz’s loss to the Toronto Raptors in Salt Lake City — a game where Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the first two players in the league to test positive for the virus, were on the court with him. The Raptors self-quarantined after that game, too, though everyone in their traveling party has since tested negative.
Once Pelicans and Kings players realized that on Wednesday, they contacted the league and made it clear they did not want to take the court over fears of the virus spreading.
“Our guys don’t want to play,” one Pelicans source told The Athletic on Wednesday night.
So the NBA canceled that game completely, a safe move at the time given what they knew. Kirkland has now been cleared to resume all activities without restriction, per Woodyard, a positive sign.
With the very real fear of the virus spreading on Wednesday night, however, the decision to cancel that game was a smart one — even with Kirkland testing negative days later.
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