As seen in recent negotiations regarding the start date of the 2020-21 NBA season, and the amount of escrow withheld from players, economic concerns are one of the front-and-center issues on the league’s mind at the moment. One of the biggest revenue sources for league operations would involve getting in-person fan attendance back at games. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the league is aiming to have that be a reality at the start of the season:
Sources: The NBA aims to have arena suites open to fans at 25-to-50 percent capacity for 2020-21 season tipoff, based on local regulations. An amount of fans — under protocols such as masks, social distancing and coronavirus testing — is a goal to start season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 5, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has made life fluid, and a clinical vaccine will play a role in this too. NBA's goal is some amount of fans to start the season, depending on each market's restrictions. Courtside fans, for instance, would be about 10-to-12 feet away, sources said. https://t.co/9I9cdN1gN3— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 5, 2020
In other major American sports, Major League Baseball allowed fans at reduced capacity for the League Championship and World Series, and many NFL teams have allowed fans at varying capacity levels based upon local and state guidelines. In Philadelphia, the Eagles allowed 7,500 fans for last Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Mask-wearing and social distancing have been common guidelines.
Since Shams’ tweet mentions courtside seating, I’ll mention one aspect of Bubble play I hope remains (although it probably won’t long-term given $$$): increased space around the sidelines. Both from a safety and a quality of play perspective, it was nice to give players room to hustle after loose balls and errant passes without immediately colliding with fans. It also allowed for this amazing game-winning in-bounds pass from Kyle Lowry over Tacko Fall:
Presuming the league follows proper guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety, it will be nice to have some fans back in-person at games. Artificial boos at the Wells Fargo Center just wouldn’t carry the same motivational punch.