LOS ANGELES (AFP) – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Monday the league would not “jump the line” for the COVID-19 vaccine as the league prepared to tip off its new season amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the United States (US).
Speaking on a conference call ahead of the start of the 2020-2021 season, Silver emphasised that the NBA would “wait our turn” to obtain the vaccine, which began to be administered for the first time last week.
“It goes without saying that in no form or way will we jump the line,” Silver told reporters. “We will wait our turn to get the vaccine.”
Silver said he hoped NBA players and staff would eventually play a role in helping to assure the public of the benefits of getting the vaccine.
“It’s my hope that when we are eligible, members of the NBA community will want to get vaccinated and it’s our plan to be involved with governmental efforts in terms of public messaging as to the benefit of taking the vaccine,” he said.
The NBA was shut down for four months last season as the pandemic swept across North America before resuming in July with teams based in a protective quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
However, the new season will take place with teams playing in their home markets, a move that represents myriad logistical challenges for the NBA and its 30 teams amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in many states.
Silver said playing an entire season in a bubble-like campus environment was deemed to be “untenable” but insisted he was confident of health and safety protocols put in place to mitigate the risk from the virus.
“I’ve been asked many times ‘Why are you starting your season now, given the state of the pandemic?’” Silver said.
“It’s a fair question and the short answer is that we’re comfortable with the health and safety protocols we’ve designed in consultation with the players association and our medical experts.
“We would not be opening our season if we did not believe it was safe and responsible to do so.”
Silver added however that the league was preparing for disruption, referring to a sense of “trepidation” about the season’s tip-off.
NBA chiefs have only released a schedule of games for the first half of the abbreviated 72-game season, and will finalise the second half of the calender at a later date.
“We do anticipate there will be bumps in the road along the way,” Silver said.
“We’re waiting to see how this plays out before issuing the second half of the season. We know it’s possible we may have to reschedule games along the way.”