When the coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend operations in March, nobody was sure when or if the season would restart. Months later, the league finally announced a plan. In July, a 22-team group of mostly playoff-bound teams would resume play at Disney World in Orlando.
Once the league made that decision, they moved on to the harder task: laying out the safety guidelines to keep players safe. The NBA recently completed those preparations, issuing a handbook of the protocols. Let’s look at the rules — both serious and silly — while outlining the penalties players face for any violations.
The NBA’s bubble rules for safety
At 113 pages, the handbook issued by the NBA is nothing short of massive. It breaks the restart effort down into six different phases. They involve everything from the arrival on Disney’s campus to the actual games. The guide also breaks bubble personnel into six different tiers. Why? To limit the amount of contact individuals in each tier have with players and coaches.
The handbook also lays out plenty of guidelines about personal protection. Players and team staff must wear face masks basically anytime they are within six feet of anybody else. They are also prohibited from using showers at the arenas where games will be played.
Players are also limited in terms of how, when, and where they can spend time with other players. For instance, players can’t spend any time in one another’s rooms. The league is also discouraging on-court contact between teammates — meaning things like hugs, high-fives, and fist bumps.
The NBA will not stop players from leaving campus. But they are strongly encouraging them to restrict themselves to on-campus facilities and NBA-approved auxiliary sites.
Some of the funnier guidelines
While the NBA’s bubble handbook covers a lot of protocols, it also zooms in to a granular — and often somewhat amusing — levels of detail. One such rule has to do with card-playing, which has been a popular pastime among players for decades. While it’s allowed, the regulations stipulate that the deck of cards must be thrown away once the game ends.
To alleviate worries that this policy creates a shortage of playing cards, the NBA added a line saying “sufficient packs of cards will be available.” Restrictions also apply to ping-pong games, with doubles matches strictly prohibited.
Specifically, reports NBC Sports, the league states, “Until directed otherwise by the NBA, players should play singles only so that they can maintain six feet of distance from each other.”
The handbook also prohibits players from sharing towels, deodorant, or clothing with each other. It’s hard to believe players have ever shared the first two items on that list. But apparently the NBA decided to take a “better safe than sorry” approach.
Consequences for violating rules
Players who fail to adhere to the NBA’s protocols face potential consequences. That holds especially true for players who leave the campus without receiving permission. In order to re-enter the bubble, such players will have to submit to a minimum 10-day quarantine period.
Players who violate other rules — for instance, re-using a deck of playing cards — will also potentially face disciplinary action. That said, the handbook does not lay out the specific nature of such discipline. It does, however, make clear that there will be an anonymous tip line that players can use to report any violations. That rule has drawn a lot of scorn from players — the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, for one — who resent being asked to “snitch” on one another.