NBA Should Cancel Games Instead of Playing Without Fans Because of Coronavirus

LeBron James waves to fans.
LeBron James waves to fans. / Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

The spread of coronavirus and desire to isolate it has already impacted sporting events in Europe, most notably in Italy where all sporting events will be played without fans until at least April. The same could happen in America soon too, with the NBA sending a memo to teams saying they should prepare for the possibility of playing games without fans in the stadium. While that makes sense given the seriousness of the situation, the NBA (and all sporting organizations) would do better to cancel games rather than play in front of empty seats.

LeBron James already said he won't play games if fans aren't in attendance, which makes sense because most players get inspired by crowds, on both the positive and negative side of things. Without them in attendance, it's easy to see the game quality decreasing. But beyond that, the watchability at home would be horrendous too.

Most people comment on how empty a stadium is even when half the stadium is full. Hell, we write stories about it every time the Los Angeles Chargers play. With the stadium completely empty, it will be an unyielding distraction. That's all anyone will talk about. The game will become secondary.

Obviously TV deals rule league financials. It's how teams and the league as a whole make most of their money; not ticket or concession sales. The idea of canceling games is likely not one the NBA will consider. However, if players like LeBron James are sitting out because there aren't fans in the stands, how watchable would an NBA game be? From my perspective, not very.

If the spread of coronavirus has gotten so bad that leagues feel the need to play in empty stadiums, we're likely dealing with a pandemic that's impacting a lot more than just sports and that's where the focus of resources should be. They shouldn't be utilized to make sure sporting events are still being contested. While sports are a nice distraction from the real world, they're not more important than real-world problems.