The NBA basketball league aims to have 25 to 50-per-cent capacity in arena suites from the start of the upcoming 2020-21 campaign.
The league will reportedly rely on local health official guidelines to determine overall seating capacity, and will require fans to wear masks and engage in social distancing until the pandemic subsides from when the season begins, most likely in December.
Like most major league sports in the US and globally, the NBA’s 2019-20 season was suspended in March due to COVID-19, but resumed the season in July behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex near Orlando, Florida.
The programme featured 22 of the 30 NBA teams and concluded with the NBA Finals, which ended on October 11. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated Miami Heat 4–2, winning its first NBA championship in ten years.
The games were played in front of empty stands, but the NBA invited more than 300 fans to appear live on the ‘Michelob Ultra Courtside’ 17-foot video boards surrounding the court for each fixture.
The news comes as the board for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has tentatively approved a start date of December 22 for the 2020-21 season and a 72-game schedule.
The union statement said: “Additional details remain to be negotiated and the NBPA is confident that the parties will reach agreement on these remaining issues relevant to the upcoming season.”
The union is in talks with the NBA to determine how much will be deducted from player salaries because of the shorter-than-usual season, and how the league and the players will navigate testing and other health and safety issues amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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