Marc Lasry says NBA games could ban fans because of coronavirus

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Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on March 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

Michael Reaves | Getty Images

Marc Lasry, co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, told CNBC on Tuesday that sporting events could possibly ban fans if the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

“If you’re going to do it to basketball, you’re going to do it to baseball,” Lasry said on “Fast Money.” “I hope we don’t get there.”

The billionaire hedge fund manager said games that exclude spectators could have more serious implications for the upcoming baseball season, as baseball stadiums can hold more people. He added that basketball games in Europe have already barred fans because of the virus and that the National Basketball Association could do the same if more people get sick.

The NBA issued a memo to teams on March 1 advising players to avoid high-fiving or giving fist bumps to fans and taking items to sign autographs. The memo also included tips on hand-washing.

“I think you will see a little bit less physical touching among fans,” Lasry said. He added that Bucks players have been advised to practice proper hand-washing.

Even if NBA games do not ban spectators, they could still see lower attendance if the outbreak becomes more serious, according to Lasry. The Toyko Olympics could also experience reduced participation from athletes and fans.

“If you’ve got more and more issues, more and more people getting sick, then people are not going to want to go,” Lasry said of the Olympics.

The World Health Organization said today that it is too early to decide whether the Olympics should be postponed.

Lasry also co-owns Fiserv Forum, the arena where the Bucks play, and where the 2020 Democratic National Convention will take place in July. He said it’s too early to determine whether the virus will impact the convention. However, this could change if the outbreak spreads further.

“Things are going to get canceled,” he said.

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