The NBA has warned teams that protocol violations that lead to coronavirus spread impacting opposing teams and causing schedule derailments could result in “fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices and game forfeitures,” according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
For players violating safety protocols this season, the league warns that the possibility of in-season quarantine and reduced paychecks loom as possibilities. While the memo doesn’t outline the length of quarantines, it says that any such player “may be subject to a proportionate adjustment to pay for any games missed during the period that the player is in quarantine and undergoing testing due to engaging in such activities and/or conduct.”
These threats are significant concerns of front offices as franchises work to understand the full gravity of operating an NBA season during a raging coronavirus pandemic that is killing thousands of people per day in the United States.
In a 158-page Health and Safety Memo shared with teams Saturday morning, teams were informed that the league may “conduct unannounced in-person inspections of team facilities” to discover whether organizations are staying compliant with COVID-19 safety protocols.
As companies like Moderna and Pfizer pursue a vaccine that can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration and distributed to the general public, the NBA outlined its approach to administering the vaccine. Once the FDA approves a vaccine and specialists working with the NBA and players’ union believe it to be safe and effective, the league and union will discuss whether its coaches, players and staff will be required to receive the vaccine.
If the vaccine isn’t required of NBA players and staff, there could be the need to create additional health and safety restrictions for those who don’t get the vaccine. For example, people who don’t get the vaccine could have to wear masks or be tested more often than those who do get it.
Despite concerns about the threat of infection as teams return to game travel, the NBA is allowing for players and staff to leave hotels for dining under these circumstances: outdoor dining, fully privatized room dining in restaurants, or NBA/NBPA approved restaurants that will meet league criteria. Players had hoped that they wouldn’t be sequestered to their rooms on road trips, and these measures will serve as something of a compromise. The NBA and NBPA are working to compile a list of at least three approved restaurants in each market.
Without the protection of a bubble environment, the NBA is determined to curb potential exposures that players and staff would traditionally have in a normal NBA season. At home, players and staff are forbidden to enter bars, lounges or clubs, attend live entertainment or game venues, or visit public gyms, spas, pool areas or large indoor social gatherings that exceed 15 people, the memo said.
Violations will include possible disciplinary action by teams or the league, including warnings, educational sessions, fines and suspensions.
What’s more, teams could be punished for failing to comply and for failing to report any “potential or actual violation, and/or any discipline imposed by the team for such violation.” If teams are found to repeatedly violate the protocols, they could be subject to “enhanced discipline.”
ESPN NBA reporters Malika Andrews, Baxter Holmes and Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.