The NBA was one of the first major sports to resume play after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world. Professional basketball was successful in its return; the season finished with everyone safe and healthy. The NBA was able to achieve this successful season because they had the help of the DisneyWorld bubble environment. No one could leave, and the league controlled all aspects of the environment. However, a new season has begun, this time with games taking place all across the country. With COVID-19 cases spiking across the nation, the NBA has had to take extreme measures when it comes to keeping the players and staff safe.
If a team member is infected with COVID-19, they must go 10 days or more after their positive test, or test negative twice 24 hours apart to return to the team. This keeps teams from spreading the virus amongst themselves. In addition, players and staff are very limited as to where they can go in public. All events with more than 15 people are off limits, including bars, clubs, gyms, or other sporting events. James Harden, one of the best players in the league, has already been forced to sit out games after he was seen partying in clubs right before the season started. As one would imagine, this rule is hard to police, so the NBA set up an anonymous hotline to report potential violations of safety protocols. This is something they used in the bubble, and it proved very effective.
If a player is caught in violation of one of the safety guidelines, they may face a loss of pay proportional to how much time they are forced to miss. Other potential penalties include suspensions, fines, or educational sessions to teach players about the potential dangers of their rule breaking. There are also penalties that could be applied to the teams themselves if they fail to adhere to safety protocols, or report violations. Teams have also been forced to limit the amount of people who are allowed to travel game-to-game to 45 people per team, including their 17 players.This is quite a drastic change for the teams, as they must really consider the role and importance of each member of the team when making the decision of who to bring to each game.
Like the NBA, high schools and colleges, including Concord Academy, have had to create safety guidelines to keep players healthy. CA does not have nearly as many players or staff members as the NBA, but the risk of the virus is still very high. CA has had to adapt the athletics program by prioritizing everyone’s safety over the general comfort and ease of play. For example, practices are being held on outdoor courts, despite the cold weather. Players have also been playing with heavy winter gloves on to cope with the condition, even though they make it hard to grip the ball. Certainly, this does not make for the best basketball experience, but playing outdoors allows for much better airflow, keeping the risk of transmission much lower than it would be in a gym. Also, masks must be worn at all times, and everyone is required to fill out the required health form before coming to practice each day. Again, these are not ideal conditions for running a basketball team, but at the moment, basketball is not the main priority. The real priority is keeping everyone safe, while also enjoying the game that provides much needed joy in times like these. And so far, both the NBA and CA have done a great job of achieving this goal.