LeBron James: ‘I ain’t playing’ if there are no fans due to coronavirus concerns
LeBron James said he “ain’t playing” if there are no fans in the arena due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The Los Angeles Laker spoke with reporters after the team’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at the Staples Center.
“We play games without the fans?” James asked incredulously. “Nah, it’s impossible.”
“I ain’t playing,” James continued. “I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates. I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”
LeBron James on possibility of NBA playing games behind closed doors because of coronavirus. LeBron: “I ain’t playing” if there are no fans pic.twitter.com/kpHg6bsFYO
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 7, 2020
The question came as sports arenas and other large venues try to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which has killed an estimated 17 people across the U.S. as of Friday.
Multiple NBA team executives told USA Today Sports that they have considered playing in empty arenas as a last resort to prevent the spread of the virus.
The basketball league reportedly sent teams a memo on Friday telling them to prepare for the possibility of fanless games and identifying which personnel would need to attend.
The Golden State Warriors released a statement saying the Saturday game against the Philadelphia 76ers will continue as scheduled. The team noted that the game will be televised nationally and encouraged fans who are feeling sick not to attend.
Sports venues across the world are scrambling to implement contingency plans, including the Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 24 in Tokyo.
Organizers of the upcoming Tokyo Games held a test event on Friday with no fans or top athletes present to test the rock climbing facilities.
Nippon Professional Baseball — Japan’s baseball league — is holding preseason games in empty stadiums, and the J.League (soccer) has postponed matches until March 18.
In Italy, the epicenter of the European outbreak, three players and a staff member of the Tuscany-based soccer club US Pianese have tested positive for coronavirus.
In the U.S., a CenturyLink Field concessions employee who worked during the XFL’s Seattle Dragons home game on Feb. 22 tested positive. Officials say the 22,060 people at the game are at low risk of contracting the virus.
More than 300 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., while more than 100,000 cases have been reported worldwide.
Washington state continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with at least 14 deaths there. However, Florida officials on Friday confirmed the first two deaths on the East Coast.