A recent Wall Street Journal article looked at the impact the coronavirus is having on the world of sports.
As more American sports leagues prepare for the possibility of games without fans, which has become reality across Europe and Asia over the past month, there is one basketball player who says that sort of disruption would be unimaginable.
“Nah, it’s impossible,” said Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. “If I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing.”
I’m a fan of LeBron, and I recognize that he is one of the best players of all-time.
But he’s not, or at least he shouldn’t be, bigger than the game.
As a swimmer at a Division II college, I participated in a sport that had virtually no fans at our swim meets. Sure, it was fun if we got a few people in the stands, but that’s not why any of us did it.
It was the love of sport, the love of competition, the desire to see ourselves improve.
I would think, and hope, that’s why athletes do what they do.
Sure, at the professional level in many sports, it is big business as well.
And yes, there are rabid fans at such events.
But the fans at an event represent just a small fraction of the number of people who watch the game, given the number of fans who watch the game on TV, or follow along over the Internet.
So LeBron is willing to ignore all of those other fans just because no one is sitting in the stands? And what about his contract? Does his contract allow him to sit out a game if there are no fans at the stadium? I doubt it.
Please note that this is not a post meant to take a side on how the world of sports should handle the coronavirus.
There is certainly a risk of spreading the virus at crowded sporting events, but I can understand the argument as well that you can’t protect against all risks. So let the fans decide if they want to attend, and not the teams. I would also make sure to tell the fans the risk is completely on them; if they contract the virus as a result of attending the game, the team is not liable.
Many businesses have had to adapt to the coronavirus, the world of sports should be no different.
*image from Straits Times