NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said fans should think of the upcoming All-Star Weekend in Atlanta as a “television-only event” and once again discouraged fans from traveling to the game, which is played. no fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .
“The message within the NBA community is that we are going to be operating in a mini bubble,” Silver said in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday. “There will be no NBA functions [for fans] to participate. We appreciate your support and hope you will see our All-Star Game on television … this is a television-only event in Atlanta. “
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has repeatedly discouraged fans from traveling to her city for the game and has asked bars and nightclubs not to party.
Still, a series of events have been planned that purport to have a connection to the game. The city of Brookhaven, a suburb of Atlanta, recently made national headlines when its City Council passed a measure extending hours of service at its bars and restaurants until 4 a.m. this weekend.
“I think in terms of nightlife in Atlanta, the state of Georgia has made the decision to keep its restaurants and clubs open,” Silver said. “That is their right to make that decision. All we can do, on behalf of the NBA, is commit to them that we will not participate in that nightlife in any way.”
“Our players will be on a work quarantine protocol while in Atlanta.”
Players participating in the game and other All-Star-related competitions will fly in private jets and will be subject to the same enhanced health and safety protocols that the league has operated under this season. While several star players have publicly complained about having an All-Star weekend amid the ongoing pandemic, each of these conditions was collectively negotiated with the National Basketball Players Association.
Silver said he appreciates the personal sacrifice made by everyone in the NBA since March 11 of last year, when the league closed indefinitely after a positive test from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. From the players, coaches and employees who spent months away from their families to complete last season in the bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and the strict health and safety protocols they have had to follow this season, to the fans of the NBA, who have continued to support the league and the owners, who have lost billions in revenue.
“The ability to operate in a pandemic has required an enormous amount of shared sacrifice,” Silver said.
“The players and the coaches are front and center, but there are thousands of people behind the scenes who are doing, who are allowing the NBA to continue operating. And many of them are making tremendous sacrifices in their lives. In some cases, Working 24 hour shifts due to the nature of the PCR testing we are doing … and the travel schedules and quick decisions that need to be made in terms of contact tracing and quarantine, is endless.
“It has really cost us all of our collective will.”
Silver said the same collective will will be needed to address the myriad challenges the league still faces at this stage of the pandemic.
This week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the state would fully reopen businesses and stop enforcing its mask mandate effective March 10. However, individual companies can still choose to require masks.
All three NBA teams, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, which play in Texas, will remain subject to NBA health and safety protocols for fans, as in other states that have NBA markets. : Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma, but has no mask mandates.
“We have set our own standards,” Silver said. “In certain cases, we have referred to public health officials. And in others, we believe that we must follow a national standard.
“I also recognize, and this may be even more true as we move into the future, that the United States is a large country and it may be appropriate to have different rules in different jurisdictions. If that’s the case, we hope those decisions are based on which one. it’s the best health and safety information in those communities.
“We will continue to work with national public health officials and local health officials to determine what they are. But so far, we believe we have struck the right balance. About half of our teams, right now, have fans in their arenas. As far as we know, we haven’t had a single problem in terms of fan-spreading in our arenas. “
In addition to rapidly changing reopening plans across the country, the NBA will soon have to address how the ability to vaccinate players, coaches and employees will affect its protocols.
That will also be collectively bargained with the players’ association, Silver said.
“We and the players association agree that no one should be mandated to get vaccinated,” Silver said. “My recommendation, my strong recommendation, not just for our players, but based on all the information I have, is that people should get vaccinated.
“But I recognize that these are individual decisions. I have not been vaccinated yet, but I will as soon as it is my turn.
Silver pointed to a recent announcement from the CDC that vaccinated people do not need to be quarantined if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.
“That will make a huge difference in this league,” Silver said. “We have been transparent about the positive cases that we have had since the season began. But there is also another category of players who have had to quarantine themselves based on the contact they have had with positive players.
“I think, for example, accepting that a vaccinated player does not have to be quarantined will be very liberating. Also, we now have a fairly complex set of rules that in many cases require laboratory tests twice a day from our players to make sure we That we can prevent the spread It may be the case that when the players are vaccinated, we can loosen the testing schedules and therefore give the players more freedom.
“But I also respect that not everyone will see it the way we do. And ultimately, this is an individual decision that players must make.”