The English Premier League announced it has banned the handshakes of players in the pregame walkout until further notice as the coronavirus outbreak continues to affect the sports world. Will the NBA, which has already suggested its players avoid giving fans high fives as a precautionary measure, follow with a similar policy?
English Premier League bans handshakes
The Premier League announced it has banned its players from the traditional pregame handshake to limit physical contact as an extra precaution against exposure to the coronavirus. The announcement comes on the same day the UK reported its first death from the virus.
It’s just the latest step European sports leagues are taking in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. In Italy, the country has taken it a step further by banning fans altogether from attending any sporting events until at least April 3.
This all comes on the heels of the Chinese Basketball Association, located at the epicenter of the outbreak’s origin, suspending games on February 1 until April with the possibility of the season being cancelled altogether.
NBA recommends limited contact with fans
Last week, the NBA sent out a memo to its teams recommending players give fans a fist bump instead of a high five. The memo also encouraged players to no longer accept items handed to them for autographs such as jerseys, balls, and pens.
Teams were also advised to clean frequently touched surfaces and recommended that players and staff avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth — all standard protocols for good hygiene in preventing the spread of any communicable disease.
With the first confirmed case in the U.S. reported on January 20, the numbers of cases in the U.S. has steadily increased. Most recent statistics indicated a count of 221 cases and 12 deaths.
Potential No. 1 pick not taking chances
Anthony Edwards, a freshman guard at the University of Georgia, who some project might be the top pick taken in the NBA Draft held in June, made an announcement on Twitter similar to the precautions already recommended by the NBA.
This season, the Bulldogs freshman guard is averaging 19.6 points per game and, by many accounts, could expect a big payday in June.
Georgia has two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Fulton County—which includes Atlanta, Edwards’ hometown. Both patients remain quarantined at home. The University of Georgia is about an hour-and-a-half east of Atlanta.
Will NBA ban pregame greetings?
With the NBA already advising its players to scale back interactions with fans, the next plausible step could be for players to avoid contact with the opposing team’s players in pregame handshakes just before tip-off.
Would the NBA stop there? Would it also ban the post-game handshake line of players shaking the hand of each coach and player on the opposing team, a routine that more closely resembles the pregame handshakes in the Premier League?
What actually happens in the future remains unclear. As the situation progresses, it appears we’re headed to a place in the very near future where a U.S. sports league (NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS) is going to decide that piecemeal solutions like altering player-to-fan or player-to-player interactions aren’t enough. Allowing, what in many cases are million-dollar investments to continue to play and risk serious illness, or even death, is not worth it. Postponement of games could soon follow.