As the world continues to manage and cope with the coronavirus outbreak, various professional sports leagues began to take action over recent days. Whereas some cancelled games altogether, others started to restrict media access to players and locker rooms.
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice,” the NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL wrote in a joint statement.
“Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with [Tuesday’s] games and practices. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”
The NBA suggested for the implementation of a six- to eight-foot perimeter that separates players from media during interviews, and the league reportedly informed teams to begin evaluating who would absolutely need to be in the arena for games in the event fans are no longer permitted.
“Very strange,” answered Lakers head coach Frank Vogel when asked what he thought the setting would be like under that scenario.
“But you’ve got to do what’s right under the circumstances and make the best of any situation. If that’s what’s called for, that’s what we’ll do. But it’ll definitely be strange.”
That the NBA would potentially be in a situation where fans couldn’t attend games is a reality Vogel previously didn’t think was possible. “A week ago, I would have guessed that it would be very unlikely,” he said.
“But as the concern grows, it looks more and more like it might be a possibility.”
Vogel was unsure if his players had requested coronavirus testing or if they had been offered examinations by the team. Nevertheless, it’s another distraction for a team that previously dealt with a geopolitical issue while abroad in China, and more recently the Kobe Bryant tragedy.
“When I took the job, my whole purpose was to get our team to stay in the moment, focus on the task at hand and try to block out outside noise,” Vogel said about navigating distractions.
“At the time there was a lot of noise about disfunction in our organization, but we’ve encountered a lot of unusual circumstances throughout the year, where that message has applied.”