As major sports leagues continue to navigate the dangerous COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA made the move to implement stricter safety protocols.
According to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the league and the player’s association is in the process of starting a two-week window that would tighten already existing safety measures. The steps taken would ideally limit social interactions between opposing players that could facilitate the spread of the virus. Wojnarowski reported three of the expected changes to league protocols on Tuesday afternoon.
The first would include “no hugging or interaction of rival players” on the court during pregame warm-ups or post-game. The NBA already found itself in trouble with this earlier this season when Wizards star Bradley Beal had an extended conversation with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum following a game between the two Eastern Conference foes. Tatum tested positive for COVID-19 soon after, forcing Beal to miss a game due to contact tracing.
The NBA’s second measure would be to reduce “social interactions during games.” The move would include, but not be limited to, “tapping hands” during free throws.
Finally, the NBA plans to more strictly enforce mask-wearing by both coaches and players on the bench during games.
Also, sources say: More enforcement of mask-wearing, including coaches during games and players on bench. https://t.co/HgcEghtIYQ
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
The NBA changes come amidst a particularly daunting time for the league. Over the last week, five games have been postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks in Boston and Dallas. If the league can’t get the spread of the virus under control, the regular season could be in jeopardy.
The sports world largely hailed the NBA for it’s handling of the Bubble Playoffs last fall, which successfully prevented a dangerous spread of COVID-19. The league finished it’s postseason in the closed environment in Orlando and crowned a champion amidst the rising pandemic.
Of course the NBA knew that the 2021 regular season would bring new challenges. Hopefully, the league can curb the spread of the virus as best as possible and continue on with games.