NBA players and staff will be prohibited from visiting bars and clubs under new Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, according to a memo sent to teams Saturday ahead of the start of the 2020-2021 season.
While at home, players, coaches and staff who work closely with them will not be allowed to enter bars, clubs, live entertainment venues, public gyms, spas or indoor gatherings of 15 or more people, per the memo obtained by CNN.
On the road, players will be allowed to eat outside their hotel only if they’ll be dining at a restaurant approved by the league, outdoors or indoors in a “fully privatized” space.
For teams, violations of the safety protocols could result in penalties like “fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices, and/or game forfeiture,” the memo says. Players may be asked to quarantine and could be subject to a pay adjustment for any games missed.
Details of the memo were first reported by ESPN.
The NBA was able to successfully conclude its 2019-2020 season without having a single player, coach or staff test positive for Covid-19 by playing all games in a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida.
The next season, set to begin on December 22, will be different, with teams playing games in their home arenas and traveling, though many teams have said they will play without fans in the stands until further notice.
The 158-page memo concedes “it is likely that some staff, players and other participants in the 2020-21 season nonetheless will test positive or contract COVID-19 particularly as the virus remains prevalent in particular team markets and surrounding communities.”
However, the “occurrence of independent cases (i.e., cases not spread among players or team staff) or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season,” it says.
The memo also looks ahead to the eventual approval of a vaccine, and says the NBA and the NBA Players Association will meet to decide whether to require Covid-19 vaccinations when such a vaccine becomes available.
If vaccination is not required, the memo says there could be additional health restrictions on those who choose not to receive it.
NBA players recently returned to a league-wide testing program. Earlier in the week, the NBA and the NBPA announced that 48 of 546 players had tested positive for Covid-19 during its initial return-to-market testing phase.