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NBA season to resume in December, but surely without fans in NYC; will they return in 2021? (and what about new limits on 10 people at private gatherings?)

Well, this is perplexing.

The National Baskeball Association this week announced that the 2020-21 season will begin Dec. 22, allowing games on the valuable Christmas holiday, and each team will play 72 games--ten fewer than in a typical season--in an attempt to re-set the 2021-22 schedule to the typical October start.

As to whether fans will be in attendance and where games would be played--an important question for the Toronto Raptors, given the difficulty crossing borders--the response was "Details on team-by-team game schedules and fan attendance for 2020-21 will be released at a future date."

But the games surely won't start with fans in the seats at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, given a state ban on live audiences at sporting events, as noted yesterday by the New York Post's Marc Berman. 
Note that the state offered extensive guidelines regarding live sports without audiences, including required face coverings for all, "except for athletes when engaged in training, warming up, or competition and broadcast media personnel when it interferes with the core activity."

New protocols

Along with The Athletic's Shams Charania, Berman cited NBA guidance that requires a negative coronavirus test for those sitting within 30 feet of the court, and no testing for arena suites at 25% capacity or less. But all fans would have to complete a “symptom and exposure survey’’ and wear a mask while not eating or drinking.

This reflects both more relaxed rules in some states and certain protocols raised in a recent questionnaire sent to fans.

To my mind, even an NBA game without spectators faces questions, given that it seems inconsistent with the spirit--if not the text--of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new rule announced yesterday, limiting "indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences" to no more than ten people.

Going forward

Relatedly, Billboard reported yesterday that Ticketmaster--at least regarding concert tickets--is aiming to use "smart phones to verify fans' vaccination status or whether they've tested negative for the coronavirus within a 24 to 72 hour window." That presumably could be applied to other events.

On Twitter, Nets fans said ticket reps suggested that fans might reeturn in late January or February and, alternatively, in the 2021-22 season. The latter seems more likely, and even that's based on an optimistic uptake of successful vaccines.

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