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The NBA Should Embrace Social Distancing

Everyone finally seems to have gotten onboard treating COVID 19 as a serious outbreak as the reality of world leaders, celebrities and sports figures coming down with the virus made headlines and forced change. However, in the race to do the right thing and accept the recommendations of medical experts, the “collective we” still aren’t always listening.

Events, schools, and even some venues like museums are suppending operations in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and the rationale is social distancing. While not every business has gotten on board such as airlines that continue to fill planes to capacity and board obviously sick passengers, other businesses have taken the opposite approach like closing ski hills and outside venues, like botanical gardens, which are not considered to pose much risk.

It makes sense to avoid packing 20,000 seat arenas or huge ballparks with fans squished together and long line-ups for everything everywhere. The scene reminds one of the risks of being trapped on a large cruise ship under the current circumstances. However, no one seems to looking for the alternatives that would meet the guidelines experts are espousing every day in the media.

While you can’t pack a building with people and say its safe, how about letting fans sit in every other row with an empty seat between unrelated groups/pairs of fans to create the recommended social distancing. A building one-third full is better than an empty building.

Additionally, maybe it’s past time to glorify players for “sucking it up” and getting out there with flu-like symptoms. No player, coach, employee, vendor, or fan should get into a venue if they have a fever or appear sick without exception and maybe with hindsight, they never should have in the past either.

No one should be expecting big venues to re-open before April at the earliest, but if the major sports leagues can bring themselves to embrace social distancing and accept smaller crowds as the new reality until this pandemic is resolved, maybe their seasons can be salvaged responsibly.

Rational, responsible, positive action by those operating our major entertainment venues could go a long ways towards making the public feel things can return to normal slowly, steadily, inevitably and, save the NBA and NHL playoffs and the MLB season in the process.


Stephen Brotherston