Golden State Warriors to play first NBA game without fans

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The Golden State Warriors announced Wednesday that the team will play its next home game without fans after San Francisco placed a ban on large events.

The Golden State Warriors will play Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets without spectators due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the team announced.

The decision comes after San Francisco Mayor London Breed banned public gatherings of 1,000 or more people as coronavirus continues to affect U.S. cities and sporting events around the world.

“We know that this Order is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health,” Breed said in a statement. “We’re following the recommendations of public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

The Warriors also said events through March 21 at the Chase Center will be canceled or postponed.

“Fans with tickets to Thursday and Saturday night’s games will receive a refund in the amount paid,” the team statement said. “Guests who purchased tickets to a concert occurring at Chase Center during the impacted dates will be notified through the promoter directly to either receive a refund or exchange for a rescheduled show at Chase Center.”

According to a report from ESPN, the National Basketball Association is also considering moving games to cities currently not impacted by the coronavirus.

The NBA also released two memos last week, the second of which it advised teams to make contingency plans should the league decide to play games in arenas without spectators.

In a statement Wednesday, an NBA spokesperson said it would monitor developments in San Francisco to determine how to handle the games for the rest of the Warriors’ season.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was initially was against the NBA playing games without fans, but changed his stance after he became aware the move was a real possibility as the league continues to monitor issues related to coronavirus.

James admitted he’d be “disappointed” if the NBA issued a mandate requiring teams to compete without fans, but added, “you got to listen to the people that’s keeping track of what’s going on. If they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we all listen to it.”

The coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt sporting events. The Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this week, with officials granting conference regular-season champions Yale men and Princeton women’s automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, which starts this month.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters Tuesday the reaction to the virus is “strange,” adding he’s adjusting to the everyday to the precautions needed to lower the risk of spreading the virus. 

“Visiting with friends and gathering, it’s awkward,” Kerr told The Bay Area News Group. “You don’t want to shake hands you’re doing the bash brothers thing. How are we supposed to act? It’s all very strange and awkward.”

–CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

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