NBA memo on coronavirus warns players to offer fist bumps to fans

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Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) fist-bumps a fan before their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nhat V. Meyer | Bay Area News via Getty Images

The National Basketball Association sent a memo to teams on March 1 regarding the coronavirus outbreak, encouraging players to avoid “high-fiving and offer fist bumps” to fans when interacting.

CNBC obtained a copy of the memo sent to front offices, which details the cause of the virus, how it can spread and offers players preventive measures to decrease the risk of becoming infected with coronavirus. The memo also says players should “avoid taking items (pens, markers, balls, jerseys, etc.) from fans to sign autographs,”  which is a daily routine for NBA players during pregame warmups.

The memo also advised players and league employees to wash their hands for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer as an additional option. Other details in the note include information on how coronavirus is spread, symptoms and actions the league has already taken, including consulting with an infectious disease researcher at Columbia University.

“The coronavirus remains a situation with the potential to change rapidly – the NBA and the Players Association will continue to work with leading experts and team physicians to provide up-to-date information and recommended practices that should be followed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the memo said.

Four league officials told CNBC the NBA has not offered any plans for league games or event cancellations as of yet. Following the end of the regular season, the league will host upcoming events, including the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, NBA Draft in New York and the Summer League in Las Vegas.

The NBA became the latest pro sports league to address the impact of the virus, which spread to the U.S. last month, first appearing in California, Oregon and Washington. Health officials blamed coronavirus for at least six deaths in the U.S., with the first death reported on Feb. 29 in Washington state. There have been at least 91 cases confirmed in the U.S.

The NBA has been in contact with China, where the virus was first detected in December, to help. There is no word if the league is still considering playing games in the country later this year, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver suggested at his press conference during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago last month.

League offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Despite a significant rift caused by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who supported Hong Kong protesters last October,  the NBA maintains a close relationship with China. Silver said the league could see revenue losses of $400 million or less due to suspended business over the matter, but added he expects partnerships will return to normal. Silver offered no time frame on when the NBA’s games would return to CCTV, which is run by the Chinese government, and instead said the league is focused on helping China with coronavirus relief efforts.

“It’s moved to the top of virtually everyone’s agenda,” Silver said. “It’s almost hard for us to be having conversations about the broadcasting of games when there’s a major national, if not global, health crisis happening.”

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