Report: NBA warns teams it will punish players for not wearing masks

The NBA wants its players to know there will be consequences for not wearing masks. The league reportedly reached out to teams Sunday to re-emphasize the importance of wearing masks in the bubble, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The NBA reportedly reminded teams it will punish players who are in violation of mask-wearing protocol. If a player earns repeated violations, it could lead to that player being removed from the bubble, according to Stein.

The NBA also asked teams to devote meeting time to the importance of wearing a mask on campus.

It’s unclear if any specific incident prompted the NBA to take action Sunday. In July, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard posted multiple videos in which he wasn’t wearing a mask. Howard, 34, was reportedly warned by the league for violating protocol.

Why do NBA players need to wear a mask in the bubble?

Though players, coaches and team staff are not allowed to leave the bubble, that isn’t the case for Walt Disney World employees. Once their shifts are done, employees leave the bubble to go home. Since the players may interact with those employees on a daily basis, it’s still important that the players wear masks just in case they come across someone carrying the virus.

The NBA has also granted exceptions for players to leave the bubble if they are dealing with personal matters. New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson and Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley are among the players who were granted permission to leave the bubble. Those players receive daily tests and are monitored by the NBA, but leaving increases the risk a player could return and test positive.

Though the NBA has taken steps to mitigate those risks, players wearing a mask inside the bubble is an extra safety measure they can take to stay safe — and to keep the league running.

NBA’s protocols have proven effective

While some players have questioned the NBA’s rules, the protocols appear to be working. On July 29, the league announced that no player had tested positive for coronavirus in its latest round of testing.

Following that news, the league went ahead with its restart July 30. Unlike MLB, the NBA has not canceled any games since restarting its season.

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