The National Basketball Association (NBA) has confirmed its 2020-21 season will resume at sports facilities at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida from the end of July.
All remaining games of the season will be played behind closed doors at the Arena, the Field House and Visa Athletic Center at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The season will resume with a double-header on July 30 as Los Angeles Lakers face Los Angeles Clippers, and Utah Jazz face New Orleans Pelicans.
The NBA has confirmed that while fans will not be present, faces of supporters watching from home will be on hundreds of video boards around the court. Details of how this will work and how fans will be selected have yet to be released.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “While [fans] won’t be physically in the arenas, we play with a deepened communal connection to sports with a more networked and immersive experience, using, for example, unique never-before-seen camera angles and amped audio of players and coaches, personalised alternative streams with statistical overlays, chat functions and social influencers, attachments to your app that lights up the arena in the team’s colours, along with virtual concerts and halftime performances.”
The programme, featuring 22 of the 30 NBA teams, will conclude with the NBA Finals, which will end no later than October 13.
The Arena, which opened in January 2018, is the largest indoor venue at the Disney complex, with an 8,000-seat capacity. The Field House (pictured below) is a 50,000-square-foot arena with a capacity of 5,000. The Visa Athletic Center is a 70,000-square-foot complex with an arena capacity of 1,200.
The NBA has collaborated with public health experts, infectious disease specialists and government officials to limit the possibility of players, coaches, officials and staff being exposed to and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Silver told reporters on Friday that he was comfortable with the games being played in Florida despite a surge in local cases, noting that rises were being identified in the majority of states due to increased testing.
Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the promotion of social justice and racial equality will be a prominent feature of the restart following recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis in May.
The NBA and its players’ union, National Basketball Players Association, are working on several measures within the Orlando restart plan to ensure the topic remains at the forefront, including the possibility that NBA players could wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys.
Silver added: “We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritises health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues.
“We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections.”