The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel, including media, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.
They said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.
The statement, in part, read: “Given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”
The changes, which the leagues say are temporary, will begin on Tuesday though some NHL teams began putting them into use this past weekend. The NBA said interviews with players would continue in different settings, stressing a gap of six-to-eight feet between reporters and interview subjects.
“I don’t know that we have our arms around how significant of an issue this is at this point, so if the league is recommending or their policy is we want to take step by step type precautions, then we want to go along with that,” Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. It is unclear how long the new policies will last.
“I think it’s dangerous for everybody,” Rangers pitcher Edinson Volquez said. “Somebody could have it, you talk to a guy, you go home, maybe you transfer that to your kids and wife and family. So I think it’s a good idea for now. Probably later, hopefully we can get together again. But for now, we have to take care of that.”
Elsewhere, the status of three San Jose Sharks hockey games, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Stanford and one MLS game are in doubt after California’s Santa Clara County announced a ban of all large gatherings of at least 1,000 people for the rest of the month in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The announcement on Monday came hours after the public health department announced the first death in the county from COVID-19. A woman in her 60s had been hospitalized for several weeks with the virus before dying.