LeBron James says he won’t play if arenas empty due to coronavirus concerns

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(Sportsnet.ca) – On Friday, the NBA sent a memo to its teams asking them to make contingency plans as a response to the growing coronavirus outbreak, including detailing potential actions teams could need to take “if it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.”

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James responded to the possibility of suiting up in an empty arena later that day, saying he wouldn’t play if fans weren’t present.

“Nah, that’s impossible,” James said after the Lakers’ 113-103 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. “I ain’t playing. If I ain’t got the fans in the crowd, that’s what I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena, and there ain’t no fans there? I ain’t playing. So, they could do what they want to do.”

The memo also detailed instructions for teams to be prepared for “the possibility of implementing temperature checks on players, team staff, referees and anyone else who is essential to conducting such a game in the team’s arena.”

Other leagues have taken similar steps. The NHL issued a memo to its teams urging players to limit contact with fans because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an effort to help control the virus’ spread, other sporting events around the world have adopted the strategy of playing competitions without fans in attendance.

Earlier in March, the Italian government announced that all sporting events in Italy will take place without fans present for at least the next month due to the virus outbreak in the country.

Research has shown the virus can be transmitted from person to person through a process called “droplet transmission” — wherein a virus is passed on due to an infected person sneezing or coughing — as well as by direct contact.

In the United States, confirmed cases grew to 312 on Saturday morning, according to the New York Times. After confirming two new cases on Friday, the total in Los Angeles County specifically reached 13.

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