NBA Owner Says Teams Could Ban Fans If Coronavirus Worsens, League Memo Advises Players To Avoid High-Fives

The league advised players to use fist-bumps over high-fives with fans.

Steph Curry high fives fans at a Golden State Warriors game
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

The league advised players to use fist-bumps over high-fives with fans.

An owner of the Milwaukee Bucks believes the NBA will have to ban fans from arenas if the coronavirus continues to spread. This comes after the league issued a memo to players advising them to avoid high-fives.

People have begun taking preparatory measures as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Some NBA players have voiced their concerns on social media, and co-owner of the Bucks, Marc Lasry, believes that fans could be banned from games altogether if the outbreak is not contained.

The billionaire team owner and hedge fund manager appeared on CNBC’s Fast Money on Tuesday to talk about the financial impact the virus could have on the sports world. He said it’s an area of concern for basketball games but could be even more problematic for the upcoming baseball season as the stadiums hold more people.

“If you’re going to do it to basketball, you’re going to do it to baseball. I hope we don’t get there,” he said on the CNBC show.

Lasry said that certain leagues in Europe have already stopped allowing fans to attend games and believes the NBA could follow suit if the virus spreads.

On Sunday, the league sent a memo to teams with 10 health tips on how to avoid contracting the coronavirus. As reported by ESPN, the memo urged players to avoid high-fiving fans and to not use pens, markers, or any other items fans may hand them for autographs.

Speaking about player interaction with spectators, Lasry said athletes will start to keep their distance.

“I think you will see a little bit less physical touching among fans,” he said on Fast Money.

The memo, which asked players to employ proper hand-washing techniques, said the league’s top concern was players and employees.

“We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus and continue to monitor the situation closely,” the league wrote.

ESPN reports that New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis was seen intentionally using fist-bumps instead of high-fives to greet fans Monday. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler said he was unconcerned.

“I don’t think about any of that. I’m still going to be who I am,” Butler said about avoiding fans. “We’re still going to be who we are.”

There is concern around the NBA that upcoming international events could possibly be canceled due to the outbreak. Lasry said that even if no events are canceled, he expects attendance to dip if people continue getting sick. He cited the upcoming Tokyo Olympics as an event that could be impacted.